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19 Mar 2009 17:21
South Africa risks undermining the rule of law if prosecutors drop graft charges against ruling ANC leader Jacob Zuma, the Congress of the People said on Thursday.
South African prosecutors were considering whether to drop graft charges against Zuma after he lodged a legal request, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Wednesday.
Dropping them could boost the ANC’s campaign for the parliamentary and provincial election on April 22.
The African National Congress could face its greatest electoral challenge since apartheid ended in 1994, but Zuma is still expected to emerge as president when the new Parliament meets to elect the head of state.
“What is a source of concern is that we must be assured that there has been no interference with the law,” said Mvume Dandala, presidential candidate of the breakaway Cope party.
The corruption case against Zuma has increased political uncertainty in Africa’s biggest economy, where growth had slowed even before the heavy impact of the global financial crisis.
Last month, a judge postponed Zuma’s trial to August 25—several months after he is expected to become president.
ANC officials say the graft charges are part of a campaign to ruin Zuma’s political career.
“If the dismissal of the charges against Mr Zuma was happening in a transparent way that would give us confidence that the rule of law was not interfered with, we would have to honour the old adage that one is innocent until proven guilty,” Dandala told a Cape Town Press Club function.
Cope, formed by ANC dissidents, is not expected to pose a serious threat to the ANC in the election.
But it has changed South Africa’s political landscape and hopes to capitalise on growing frustrations with ANC graft cases and the party’s record on crime and poverty.
Youth league slams Mo
Meanwhile, Schabir Shaik’s brother, Mo Shaik, was criticised by the ANC Youth League on Wednesday for his “opportunistic” statement suggesting that Zuma’s charges would be dropped.
“Mo Shaik should be aware that he had no authority to make such remarks for whatever reasons, particularly before the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] makes its own independent pronouncements,” the youth wing of the ANC said in a statement.
Shaik’s brother, fraud convict Schabir Schaik, is Zuma’s former financial adviser.
Shaik told students and ANC members at the University of Pretoria on Tuesday :“Many of you will be moved by what I’m about to say, but in the national newspapers that’s going to break tomorrow [Wednesday] morning is going to be the following headlines: ‘The National Prosecuting Authority has decided not to prosecute Jacob Zuma’.
The youth league said they were also concerned that newspapers were the first to report about this “highly sensitive internal matter” of the NPA, before the authority could make any official communication to the Zuma’s legal representatives.
The Star and Business Day on Wednesday quoted well-placed sources close to the case as confirming it would be dropped.
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