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03.04.2009 Africa

Zuma graft decision due on Monday

By BBC
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South African prosecutors say they will announce on Monday whether they will drop corruption charges against African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma.

South Africa media has been full of speculation that the charges will be dropped but a prosecution spokesman said the decision could go either way.

Mr Zuma is widely expected to become president after elections on 22 April.

He denies the charges, which relate to a multi-million dollar arms deal, and says they are part of a political plot.

Mr Zuma was first charged with graft, money-laundering and racketeering in 2005, but has yet to face trial.

The charges have twice been put on hold - most recently in September 2008, when the judge ruled that there had been political interference in the case while Mr Zuma's rival, Thabo Mbeki, was president.

But the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) successfully appealed and the trial is currently due to start in April.

ANC spokesperson Lindiwe Zulu told the South African Press Agency that Mr Zuma was continuing to campaign for the elections but wanted the matter decided once and for all.

"The waiting is not a very good thing, the entire NEC [National Executive Committee], the entire ANC, the public is waiting but at the same time we do hope the NPA is delaying because they are really exercising their mind to this," she said.

The NPA last month announced they were reviewing the case against Mr Zuma, following new submissions by his lawyers.

Opposition leader Helen Zille said the delay in the announcement was "the result of deep divisions within the NPA."

"Some in the NPA oppose withdrawing the case that they have so painstakingly built, while others believe the case is seriously compromised, or want to protect their jobs by dropping the charges," she said in a statement.

Ms Zille also called for all information about the decision to be made public.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu this week said Mr Zuma should face trial.

Opposition parties have previously condemned any move to drop charges against the ANC leader, saying it would be a clear interference in the judiciary by the government.

Some ANC officials have left the party because of their opposition to Mr Zuma and formed the rival Congress Of the People (Cope).

The ANC faces its biggest electoral challenge since the end of apartheid in 1994, but it is still expected to win the elections, paving the way for Mr Zuma to become president.

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