South Africa High Court invalidates Zuma corruption prosecution

South Africa High Court invalidates Zuma corruption prosecution

[JURIST] A judge in South Africa's Pietermaritzburg High Court ruled [text, PDF] Friday that an earlier decision to prosecute politician Jacob Zuma [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on corruption charges was procedurally invalid because Zuma was not given the chance to respond to the allegations against him. In December 2007, South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority [official website] served an indictment [JURIST report] on Zuma, charging him with corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering. Zuma said that the charges were part of a politically motivated effort by outgoing President Thabo Mbeki [official profile] to upset his plans to run in the 2009 presidential election and that Zuma had both a constitutional [S. 179(5)(d) text, PDF] and statutory [NPA s. 22(2)(c) text, PDF] right to state his case before charges were brought. The judge wrote Friday:

[T]his application has nothing to do with the guilt or otherwise of the applicant. It deals only with a procedural point relating to his right to make representations before the respondent makes a decision on whether to charge him again. Once these matters are cured the State is at liberty to proceed again against the applicant, subject to any further proceedings he may bring. …

It is declared that the decision taken by the National Prosecuting Authority during or about 28 December 2007 to prosecute the applicant . . . is invalid and is set aside.

Officials from Zuma's African National Congress (ANC) praised the decision [press release], saying that the National Prosecuting Authority had violated Zuma's rights, and Zuma's lawyers said they will move for a full dismissal of the case in November. Bloomberg has more. From South Africa, the Times has local coverage.

In late July, the South African Constitutional Court [official website] rejected a motion [opinion, PDF; 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 [official backgrounder; BBC report] should be thrown out because the raids violated his rights to privacy and a fair trial. The court upheld the validity of the warrants used in the raids, confirming a November 2007 decision [JURIST report] by the South African Supreme Court of Appeal. The court also held [opinion, PDF; summary] that papers obtained by the Mauritius government [JURIST report] believed to document meetings between Zuma and arms manufacturer Thint were also admissible. Zuma has been facing corruption allegations [BBC timeline] and other charges for several years. He was first charged with corruption in 2005, but those charges were later dismissed [JURIST report] because prosecutors failed to follow proper procedures.