Corruption charges against former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma are no longer scheduled for a court date. However, the decision is not a permanent stay of prosecution.
South African Judge Herbert Msimang on Wednesday withdrew the case against former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma after the prosecution said it was not ready to proceed.
Judge Msimang did not rule on the merits of the case, and no evidence has been presented in court. He said that his decision was motivated by the length of time it has taken to finalize the case against Zuma. He added that the effect of this was that Zuma had suffered social prejudice akin to "punishment that should only be handed to a convicted person."
Law professor Robin Palmer told national radio that the charges are likely to be reinstated.
"If the matter is struck off the roll, the prosecution then has the option to withdraw the charges against Mr. Zuma, they declined to do so; and the effect then is that the matter cannot proceed until it is enrolled again and the effect also would be that the prosecution would have to recharge Mr. Zuma before the matter can proceed," Palmer said.
The National Prosecuting Authority, or NPA, says it will take a few days to review the judge's decision before making an announcement about how it intends to proceed. NPA spokesman, Makhosini Nkosi, told VOA that because it is such a high-profile matter, in which the accused says he is innocent and the prosecution has argued that it has a strong, winnable case, it should not be determined on issues of procedure.
"It is not a matter that should be determined on the basis of procedural technicalities," Nkosi said. "It is a matter that should be determined on the basis of its merits, there should be a trial, so the accused are either found guilty or not guilty."
Unless the charges are reinstated against him, Zuma will be free to run next year for the leadership of the governing African National Congress Party, or ANC. If he is successful in that bid, he will most likely become South Africa's next president.
In recent weeks, he has delivered a series of fiery speeches, in which he has continued to reiterate that the case against him is political, and designed to prevent him from becoming president of South Africa. Following the judge's decision, Zuma told his supporters gathered outside the court he is innocent of all charges. He said the media sentenced him even before he has been been convicted in a court of law.