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SA prosecutor to challenge Zuma ruling

Do Not UseDo Not Use 23/05/2016
Jacob Zuma - archive shot © Reuters Jacob Zuma - archive shot

South Africa's prosecution says it will appeal against a court ruling that it should reconsider corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma.

Shaun Abrahams: Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams said he did his job "without fear, favour or prejudice" © AFP Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams said he did his job "without fear, favour or prejudice"

Originally, the 783 charges were dropped weeks before the 2009 election which led to him becoming president.

Jacob Zuma being sworn in in 2009 © AP Jacob Zuma being sworn in in 2009

But last month, a high court judge described that decision as "irrational".

One of the Saab Gripen fighter jets, bought by the South African Airforce, as part of the country's controversial arms deal - Cape Town, South Africa, 2006 © AFP One of the Saab Gripen fighter jets, bought by the South African Airforce, as part of the country's controversial arms deal - Cape Town, South Africa, 2006

Mr Zuma has always denied the allegations which are linked to a 1999 arms deal worth billions of dollars.

And in April, a judge-led commission of inquiry found no evidence of corruption or fraud by any government officials at the time the deal was made.

Live: Zuma decision announced

Profile: Jacob Zuma

After a case brought by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), Judge Aubrey Ledwaba said last month that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should consider re-opening the case.

But National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams said that prosecutors should be able to exercise discretion over whether an investigation should continue.

Briefing journalists, Mr Abrahams said that this was an issue that affected the separation of powers and that the ruling "has far-reaching ramifications".

He said he would be seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against the High Court ruling .

Quoting legislation that defines the role of the NPA, Mr Abrahams said that he did his job "without fear, favour or prejudice", adding that no-one influenced his decisions.

The DA described the prosecutor's decision as a "blatant delaying tactic to shield [Mr] Zuma from his day in court".

Analysis: Milton Nkosi, BBC News, Johannesburg

This decision means that President Jacob Zuma is off the hook, for now.

By appealing against last month's High Court ruling, the NPA has refused to reinstate the charges.

Although chief prosecutor Shaun Abrahams was at pains to explain his independence, the opposition still maintains that he is too close to President Zuma.

If the Supreme Court of Appeal rules against the NPA, Mr Abrahams would have to go to the highest court in the land, the Constitutional Court.

So the allegations of corruption against the 73-year-old president are still going to be in our daily diet for some time to come.

But the president must be breathing a bit easier now.

The DA asked the courts to review the 2009 decision after it got access to the evidence in the so-called "spy tapes" that led the chief prosecutor Mokotedi Mpshe to drop the case.

In 2009, Mr Mpshe said that the tapes - recordings of phone conversations between officials discussing the timing of the case against Mr Zuma - suggested that there was political interference in the investigation.

Last month, Judge Ledwaba said Mr Mpshe had "found himself under pressure" when he decided to discontinue the prosecution and "consequently made an irrational decision".

"Considering the situation in which he found himself, Mr Mpshe ignored the importance of the oath of office which commanded him to act independently and without fear and favour.

"Mr Zuma should face the charges as outlined in the indictment," the judge said.

The investigation into Mr Zuma's alleged corruption had become heavily politicised, amid a power struggle between Mr Zuma and then-President Thabo Mbeki.

Mr Zuma was sacked as deputy president in 2005 shortly after his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was found guilty of corruption and fraud in relation to the arms deal.

Controversial arms deal: What you need to know

1999: largest-ever post-apartheid arms deal announced with contracts totalling 30bn rand ($5bn; £2.5bn) to modernise national defence force

Deal involved companies from Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK, France and South Africa

Allegations of bribery over deal dogged governments of President Jacob Zuma and predecessor Thabo Mbeki

Mr Zuma's former financial adviser Schabir Shaik convicted in 2005 for corruption over deal. Found guilty of trying to solicit bribe from Thint, local subsidiary of French arms firm Thales, on behalf of Mr Zuma - then deputy president. Released on parole on health grounds after serving just over two years

Another official, Tony Yengeni, chairman of parliament's defence committee at time of deal and ANC chief whip, convicted of fraud in 2003. Also freed on parole after serving five months of four-year sentence

April 2016: commission of inquiry into deal found no further evidence of corruption or fraud.

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