Zuma village cheers end of leader’s legal woes

The trademark Umshini Wam song of South Africa’s presidential frontrunner Jacob Zuma rang out across the hills of his rural Nkandla village in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday as his family celebrated the end of his eight- year tussle with the law.

The head of South Africa’s prosecuting authority earlier announced he was lifting the corruption charges, on which Zuma was due to stand trial in August.

The spectre of a trial had threatened to mar Zuma’s expected inauguration as president next month after general elections his African National Congress party is expected to win.

Reacting to the announcement, Sizakele Zuma, the first of Zuma’s two wives and mother of 17 of his children, told the German Press Agency (dpa): ”I’m very happy it’s over. It’s been a long, long time now.”

Wearing a headscarf knotted at the front in a big bow, and a traditional wrap skirt and blouse, Sizakele was overseeing preparations for a celebration party that night in Zuma’s homestead, a kraal of three houses surrounded by a smattering of huts, with imposing views of plunging green valleys.

Speaking in isiZulu, Sizakele recalled her last long wait for Zuma to be freed by the law when he spent 10 years in Robben Island prison off Cape Town for resisting apartheid.

She said she was looking forward to being by her husband’s side when he was installed as president in Pretoria and to meeting the likes of US president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

”He [Zuma] is going to teach me how he’s going to be and how to behave in the presidency,” she said shyly, while a group of Zuma’s granddaughters and neighbours, many wearing skirts and t-shirts bearing the image of his face, launched into a raucous renditions of his trademark struggle-era song.

The charges against Zuma related to payments of more than R4-million that he received from his businessman friend Schabir Shaik, who was found guilty of fraud in a multibillion-dollar 1990s state arms deal.

Zuma claimed the charges were part of a plot to destroy him politically, even though Shaik was found guilty of soliciting a bribe from an arms manufacturer on his behalf.

Zuma’s release from prosecution marks another milestone in his political comeback since his firing as deputy president by Mbeki in 2005. — Sapa-dpa

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