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South Africa court reinstates 783 corruption charges against president

[JURIST] The North Gauteng High Court in South Africa on Friday ordered [text, PDF] that the 2009 decision to discontinue the prosecution of President Jacob Zuma [official profile] on 783 corruption charges be set aside, and that Zuma and his codefendants pay the full costs of the ligation brought forth by an opposing political party, Democratic Alliance (DA) [party website]. The court stated [WP report] that the prosecutor, Mokotedi Mpshe, was pressured to discontinue the prosecution in 2009, made an irrational decision and ignored the oath of his office, which demanded he act with independence. The court also found that when Mpshe announced the decision, he failed to consult with the senior members of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to express their views on the matter. This failure was considered especially noteworthy because up until March 31, 2009, there was consensus in the NPA that prosecution must continue. However, the very next day Mpshe announced his decision to drop the prosecution. According to the court findings, some of the other members of the NPA were not even informed of the decision until April 6. Furthermore, the court found that Mpshe did not allow the Director of Public Prosecution, Kwa Zulu Natal, to listen to recordings of phone conversations, which were crucial evidence in the case. This was especially puzzling to the court considering the fact that it was Natal who signed the indictment and authorized Zuma's prosecution. The NPA will now have to decide whether to reinstate the charges, but it is not entirely clear if it will do so considering the court's finding that NPA's prosecution of the case is heavily politicized.

The South African president has been embroiled in legal trouble for the past several months. Zuma evaded impeachment [JURIST report] earlier this month after the African National Congress (ANC) [official website] reaffirmed its support for the president. The move to impeach Zuma came from opposition leaders after the Constitutional Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] last month that he had ignored the order of the Public Protector to personally repay the amounts determined by the National Treasury, as they relate to the "non-security" upgrades to his private residence. Zuma has been at the center of political controversy for years. Zuma was ousted [JURIST report] as the country's deputy president in 2005 after an aide was convicted of corruption. He was also charged with rape, but he was ultimately acquitted and reinstated [JURIST report] as African National Congress deputy vice president. In July 2008 the South African Constitutional Court rejected a motion [JURIST report] by Zuma to exclude evidence from the corruption trial. Zuma had argued [JURIST report] that evidence seized in 2005 raids by the Directorate of Special Investigations should be thrown out because the raids violated his rights to privacy and a fair trial. The court upheld the warrants used in the raids, confirming a November 2007 decision [JURIST report] by the Supreme Court of Appeal. He was first charged with corruption in 2005, but those charges were later dismissed [JURIST report] because prosecutors failed to follow proper procedures.

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