SOUTH Africa’s state prosecutor said on Monday he would appeal against a High Court ruling which could lead to 783 corruption charges being reinstated against President Jacob Zuma.
The decision will bring some relief to Zuma as he faces mounting calls to quit from the opposition and even from members of the ruling African National Congress after a damning constitutional court judgment against him in March.
The main opposition party stepped up its criticism on Monday, saying the state prosecutor’s decision was an attempt to shield the president and buy him time before elections in August.
A decision by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in April 2009 set aside hundreds of charges allowed Zuma to run for president the same month.
The NPA’s decision at the time was based on phone intercepts presented by Zuma’s legal team that suggested the timing of the charges in late 2007 may have been part of a political plot against Zuma.
But the High Court last month ordered a review of the NPA’s decision to drop the charges, terming it “irrational”.
“I have decided to apply for leave to appeal against the judgment,” the National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams told a televised media conference in the capital.
“I will always do what is correct, irrespective of whether the individual is an ordinary person, a Cabinet minister or a sitting president.”
Abrahams said the law allowed the prosecutor a discretion that can be exercised at various stages of the an investigation, and that the court ruling could dilute the NPA’s powers.
“It is also a matter that seriously affects the separation of powers. This is an important matter of principle which affects all prosecutions, it is so important. I believe it needs the decision of an appeal court,” Abrahams said.
The hundreds of corruption charges relate to a major government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s.
Zuma said last month that an investigation into the deal had found no evidence of corruption or fraud. Critics denounced the findings as a cover-up and said they would continue to campaign for justice.