South Africa prosecutors drop Zuma corruption charges

South Africa prosecutors drop Zuma corruption charges

[JURIST] The National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa (NPA) [official website] announced Monday that it is dropping all corruption charges against African National Congress (ANC) [official website] leader Jacob Zuma [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The acting director of the NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe, issued a statement [text, DOC] that called into question the timing of the prosecution's original indictment [JURIST report] in December 2007. The indictment occurred just before Zuma was announced as the new leader of the ANC. Mpshe declassified phone conversations between former NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka and former head of the NPA's business unit, the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) Leonard McCarthy, discussing the charges against Zuma. Due to the close political connections between Ngcuka, McCarthy, and former South African president Thabo Mbeki [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], Mpshe found that the legal process had been tainted. He concluded:

It follows therefore that, any timing of the charging of an accused person which is not aimed at serving a legitimate purpose is improper, irregular and an abuse of process. A prosecutor who uses a legal process against an accused person to accomplish a purpose for which it is not designed abuses the criminal justice system and subjects the accused person to that abuse of process.

Abuse of process through conduct which perverts the judicial or legal process in order to accomplish an improper purpose offends against one’s sense of justice.

Mbeki indicated that the NPA will continue to investigate whether charges will be filed against Ngcuka and McCarthy. Zuma is the favorite to become South Africa's next president when the country holds its election on April 22.

This likely ends the long standing legal battle against Zuma. In January, the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa [official website] reinstated the charges against Zuma, which had been invalidated [JURIST reports] in September. In July, 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.