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NPA to launch challenge against Zuma ruling

South African prosecutors said on Friday they would appeal against a court ruling that dismissed a politically charged graft case against ruling African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma.

The judge’s suggestion of political interference in the case led to Thabo Mbeki’s resignation as South Africa’s leader this week and his replacement by new President Kgalema Motlanthe on Thursday.

In a statement, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) made clear it was not going to let the matter drop and would take its case to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

”The NPA will file its application for leave to appeal to the SCA next week,” the NPA, which has spearheaded a lengthy investigation of ANC leader Zuma, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Judge Chris Nicholson in the Pietermaritzburg High Court tossed out fraud, bribery and other charges against Zuma, the frontrunner to win the 2009 presidential election, and suggested that there had been high-level political meddling in the case.

Prosecutors announced they would appeal the ruling, infuriating Zuma’s supporters and helping trigger the party’s ouster of Mbeki last weekend. His removal sparked the nation’s worst crisis since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Zuma defeated Mbeki for the ANC leadership in a bitter contest late last year that divided the ruling party into two warring factions and raised investor fears of a change in the country’s pro-business policies.

Motlanthe, the ANC’s deputy president and a Zuma ally, was elected and sworn in to replace Mbeki by Parliament on Thursday. Motlanthe pledged that there would be no dramatic changes to the government’s policies.

Notice of opposition
Meanwhile, the NPA has lodged a notice of opposition to Mbeki’s Constitutional Court application directed at certain findings in the recent ruling by Judge Nicholson.

The NPA has opposed Mbeki’s application on a limited basis, owing to the SCA appeal against Nicholson’s judgement, as it feels it may be prejudiced if findings are made before its SCA appeal is heard.

Mbeki’s application is directed at the findings of political interference made by the high court.

”This means that the very issues that Mr Mbeki seeks to contest in this court [the Constitutional Court] will or may also be before the SCA if the national director of public prosecutions [NDPP] is given leave to appeal to that court,” said the NPA.

”The NDPP respectfully submits that it is inappropriate, while this case is on appeal to the SCA, for some of the issues arising in the appeal to be determined by this court [Constitutional Court]. The NPA adds that it does not follow that Mbeki’s application should necessarily be dismissed if these concerns of the NDPP be addressed in some other way.

”It might be possible, for instance, by postponing Mr Mbeki’s application until after the NDPP’s appeal to the SCA had run its course. Another possibility might be for this court to direct that the entire matter, including the NDPP’s appeal, come directly to this court. If it should do so, the NDPP will cooperate in the implementation of this court’s directive.” — Thomson Reuters, I-Net Bridge

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Paul Simao
Guest Author

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