Zuma charged with corruption, fraud

Jacob Zuma, the new leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), was on Friday served with papers to appear in court to face corruption charges, his lawyer told Agence France-Presse.

“Today, December 28 2007, the Directorate of Special Operations [Scorpions] served on Mr Jacob Zuma an indictment to stand trial in the high court on various counts of racketeering, money laundering, corruption and fraud,” Zuma’s attorney, Michael Hulley, said in an email.

“According to the indictment, which was served on Mr Zuma’s Johannesburg residence in his absence, the trial is to proceed on August 14 2008.”

Zuma recently trounced President Thabo Mbeki in a bitter election contest to take over as leader of the ANC, despite having the possibility of being charged with corruption hanging over his head.

Mbeki fired Zuma as deputy head of state in June 2005 after his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was found guilty of soliciting bribes on behalf of the new ANC leader.

Initial corruption charges against Zuma were dropped in September last year when a judge threw them out after it emerged the state did not have enough evidence.

Zuma’s supporters have portrayed the investigation, which is centred around a 1999 arms deal, as part of a conspiracy mounted against him by the elite Scorpions police crime-busting unit, which was set up by Mbeki.

Hulley said the timing of the indictment was “peculiar” and that it proved the Scorpions were “influenced and their prosecution informed by political considerations”.

“The timing of the service of the indictment is calculated to quickly redress the popular support and call to leadership of the ANC which Mr Zuma’s election so obviously demonstrates,” he said in a press statement.

“These charges will be vigorously defended, in the context of the belief that the Scorpions have acted wrongly and with improper motive calculated to discredit Mr Zuma and ensure that he plays no leadership role in the political future of our country.”

Normally, as leader of the ruling party, Zuma would be virtually certain to succeed Mbeki as South Africa’s president in elections in 2009.

He has said he would not step down from the helm of the ANC if charged, although he would if ultimately convicted.

“If I’m taken to court and the judge says ‘Zuma, we find you guilty’, as I walk out of court I will say to the ANC ‘I’m stepping down’,” he told the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

‘Imminent’

Last week, the acting head of the NPA said enough evidence had been gathered to charge Zuma at the end of a marathon corruption investigation.

“The investigation is complete. All that we are doing now is to tie the loose ends,” acting National Director of Public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe told 702 Talk Radio.
“The investigation, with the evidence we have now, points to a case that can be taken to court,” he added.

Mpshe said at the time that a final decision on when to take action on Zuma was “imminent”. Asked whether charges would be filed soon, he replied: “Yes, that’s my impression.”

Shaik is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence after he was found guilty of soliciting bribes on behalf of Zuma.—AFP

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