South Africa: Former President Zuma to be tried for corruption

A decades-long corruption charge has finally caught up with former South African President Jacob Zuma, who resigned under pressure from the ruling ANC in February.

The case centres on a 30bn rand ($2.5bn) deal to modernise the country’s defence in the late 1990s, when Zuma was deputy president. Zuma is alleged to have sought bribes from a French company to support his extravagant lifestyle. His financial adviser at the time was found guilty of soliciting those bribes in 2005 and Zuma was later sacked as deputy president.

He will face 16 charges relating to 783 instances of alleged wrongdoing, National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku has announced.

Twelve are of fraud, one of racketeering, two of corruption and one of money laundering.

Chief state prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said Zuma’s attempts to head off the charges hanging over him had failed.

“In the interest of transparency, in the interest of the administration of justice, and in the interest of the national prosecution authority, I am of the view that a trial court would be the most appropriate forum for these issues to be ventilated and to be decided upon,” he said.

Since his election nine years ago, Zuma’s opponents have fought a lengthy legal battle to have the charges reinstated while Zuma has countered with his own legal challenges.

The 75-year-old has always denied all the allegations against him.

The former South African leader was beset by scandal during his tenure and stepped down in February amid corruption allegations.

In 2016, a report by South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog alleged that the billionaire Gupta family had exploited their ties with him to win state contracts.

Both the Guptas and Zuma deny any wrongdoing.

The same year, South Africa’s highest court ruled that  Zuma had violated the constitution when he failed to repay government money spent on his private home.

An anti-corruption body found he had spent $23m on refurbishments including a swimming pool and an amphitheatre. He has since repaid some of the money.

Adira Kallo

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