/ 7 April 2009

Durban court frees Zuma of charges

African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma was officially free of his corruption charges on Tuesday.

The High Court in Durban endorsed a decision taken by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to drop the 16 charges against the presidential frontrunner, who was seen smiling as the decision was confirmed.

Zuma’s daughter Duduzile, wearing a bright yellow jacket, was inside court videotaping her father’s big moment.

Judge president Vuka Tshabalala said all charges against the three accused were withdrawn.

This included charges against two Thint companies, who were the co-accused.

The charges had related to allegations of bribery between the arms company and Zuma.

Tshabalala said when charges are withdrawn they could be reinstated again, however, he stressed that it was unlikely.

He spoke briefly on the publicity surrounding the case and stressed that all proper procedure had been followed.

After the judge’s pronouncement that Zuma was officially free from the eight-year legal burden, his supporters in court burst into applause.

The formality followed the announcement by the NPA’s acting head, Mokotedi Mpshe on Monday that the 16 charges would be dropped due to the alleged abuse of process by the former head of the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), Leonard McCarthy.

Mpshe was quick to point out that dropping the corruption charges did not amount to Zuma’s acquittal.

His decision was not based on the actual merits of the case.

”It does not amount to an acquittal … Mr McCarthy’s conduct offends one’s sense of justice. It would be unfair as well as unjust to continue with the prosecution,” Mpshe said at a press briefing.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Monday said there were ”good reasons” why the Zuma prosecution had to end: ”Comrade Zuma has suffered undue prejudicial delay which renders a fair trial impossible.”

A small marquee had been set up where Zuma was expected to address ANC supporters after his brief court appearance.

ANC Youth League provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo said Zuma would address the crowd at a small park between the Durban harbour and the high court.

Some of the ANC’s provincial leaders waiting for Zuma outside the court included provincial health minister Peggy Nkonyeni, who shouted ”free at last, free at last”.

Nkonyeni also faces corruption charges, related to the procurement of medical equipment, and is out on bail.

South African Communist Party general-secretary Blade Nzimande with his wife Phumelele, Congress of South African Trade Unions general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and Transport Minister Jeff Radebe had also arrived to support Zuma.

Zuma is expected to address the media at the Hilton Hotel at 11am, for the first time after the NPA’s decision was announced.

Zille files application for review
Meanwhile, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille filed an urgent application to the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday requesting a review of the NPA’s decision to drop charges against Zuma.

After spending about 40 minutes inside the court, Zille, dressed all in black, spoke to the media at 10am.

She said the decision announced by Mpshe was unlawful and irrational.

”It violated the Constitution, it violated the law and it violated the [National Directorate of Public Prosecution’s] own policy.

”It is an irrational decision, it is an unlawful decision and the reasons given do not hold water because they do not address the question of the merits of the case against Jacob Zuma.” — Sapa