A South African court will rule Friday on a bid to have more than 700 corruption charges reinstated against President Jacob Zuma, piling further pressure on the embattled leader.
The charges, relating to a multi-billion dollar arms deal, were dropped by the chief state prosecutor in 2009 — clearing the way for Zuma to be elected president later that year.
Judgement in the case will be delivered in the Pretoria High Court.
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), maintains that the prosecutor’s decision to drop the charges was wrong.
“We contend that the decision taken by the then acting national director of public prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe, was irrational, unreasonable and made with an ulterior political motive,” the DA said Thursday.
The prosecutor had justified dropping the charges by saying that recordings of tapped phone calls between senior officials in then-president and Zuma rival Thabo Mbeki’s administration showed political interference in the case.
The recordings, which became known as the “spy tapes”, were kept secret but finally released to the DA in 2014 after a five-year legal battle.
“This (Friday’s court ruling) could have the effect of reinstating the charges against President Zuma,” said James Selfe, the chairman of the DA federal executive.
Friday’s decision will likely be appealed in a higher court by whichever side loses.
Zuma last month lost another major legal battle when the country’s highest court found he violated the constitution over the use of public funds to upgrade his private residence.
This led to an effort in parliament by the DA and other opposition parties to impeach him, but the ruling African National Congress (ANC) used its majority to easily defeat the motion.
Pressure on Zuma to be ousted or to resign has been growing with several veteran leaders of the party that brought Nelson Mandela to power in 1994 calling for him to step down.
“If the judgement comes out against him tomorrow it will be another stain to an already tainted reputation,” said University of Johannesburg professor of political science Mcebisi Ndletyana.
The “spy tapes” saga is one of many scandals “that have painted him as character who suffers from a lack of integrity,” Ndletyana said.
Zuma is due retire from office in 2019 when his second term ends.
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