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13.01.2009 Africa

Zuma Trial To Resume

By Daily Guide
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Jacob Zuma A South African appeals court has ruled that the corruption case against ANC leader Jacob Zuma can continue. A judge overturned an earlier high court ruling dismissing charges against Mr Zuma, saying the lower court judge had "overstepped" his authority.

State prosecutors said Mr Zuma "remains a charged person".

The ANC says Mr Zuma will still lead the party into elections due in the coming months, meaning he is the strong favourite to become the next president.

The 16 charges of corruption, money-laundering and racketeering stem from a controversial $5bn 1999 arms deal.

The ANC said that while it respected the Bloemfontein appeals court ruling, "it is important to note that this judgement has nothing to do with the guilt or otherwise of the ANC president.

"Nor does it make any pronouncements on the merits of the charges previously brought by the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority]."

It added that it and Mr Zuma reserved the right "to pursue all options available in law".

This means an appeal to the highest court in South Africa, the Constitutional Court, and a bid for a permanent stay of proceedings to prevent charges being pursued, says the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg.

Mr Zuma has said he would only resign from public office if convicted. He could still be prosecuted if he became president.

'Conspiracy theory'
The charges against Mr Zuma were dismissed on a technicality last September.

But the Supreme Court said Judge Chris Nicholson in the High Court "overstepped the limits of its authority" by suggesting there may have been political interference in the prosecution of Mr Zuma.

Judge Louis Harms said the claims "were not based on any evidence or allegation. They were instead part of the judge's own conspiracy theory and not one advanced by Mr Zuma."

The suggestion of political interference led Thabo Mbeki to stand down as president.

Mr Mbeki himself had called the lower court ruling, passed in September 2008, "unfair and unjust" as he had not been able to defend himself in court.

Judge Harms likened Judge Nicholson to a football referee who "took his eye off the ball" and penalised not only players but also spectators - meaning Mr Mbeki, Associated Press news agency reported.

Mr Mbeki was replaced by Kgalema Motlanthe, an ally of the ANC leader.


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