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Zuma’s Lawyers Propose New Date For Corruption trial

Attorneys for the president of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) Jacob Zuma are proposing 2010 as the new date for a possible corruption trial. This follows a meeting between the prosecution and defense team, which was chaired by a High Court judge to find a new date for a possible prosecution of Zuma over various allegations of corruption. Some political analysts say if the court agrees with a defense proposal, Zuma would be president by 2010.

This could complicate matters for the prosecution, as Zuma would be immune from facing legal action. Zuma’s defense team says it will file an application next month effectively challenging the state's decision to prosecute him over the corruption allegations. Professor Shadrack Gutto is a constitutional law expert at the University of South Africa. He tells VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey more about the latest development on the possible corruption case against Zuma.

“It emerged that first of all, Zuma’s part that is the defense is contemplating a number of things. They are contemplating first of all asking the court to strike down the case or to remove it from the roll because they allege that has been an undue delay and, therefore, Zuma would not be able to get a fair trial. Secondly, because the matter was struck off they don’t see any good reasons why they should be reinstated. So, really they are going on technical matters hoping that they can delay the trial to until such a time that the election takes place next year or if they are lucky that the court may agree with them and strike the matter out of the court process altogether,” Gutto noted.

He said it could be a challenge for the ruling party to have Zuma as the presidential candidate in next year’s general elections knowing that he could be standing trial over graft charges.

“My own estimation is that if the case is actually being heard, or it is in the court and it is active and going on, by the time of the election next year, which is April, I doubt very much if the ANC will risk really having Zuma as the its presidential candidate because then you have a lame candidate who would be spending most of the time in the court and actually undermine the credibility of the candidate and the party. But that is why it is important for those who would like the matter to end quickly that it should go quickly,” he said.

Gutto said Zuma’s defense team seems to want a delay in the trial.

“It does seem to be the strategy on the defense team on Zuma’s side actually to delay matters than to have it to begin early,” Gutto pointed out.

He said the graft case against Zuma has had some significant impact on the political dynamics in South Africa.

“In the country it has had some impact already. As we know, it has led to Jacob Zuma gaining a lot of popularity among ordinary people and therefore leading to his being elected the leader of the African National Congress, and as more or less the likely candidate for ANC presidential candidate come next year. So it has had in many ways a positive result for Jacob Zuma and those within his camp. But I believe that it has come to if you like to evoke very strong public opinion for and against. And I think that that is good for democracy because what it would do is to lead to very robust discussion looking at institutions, looking at processes, and trying to refine them so that as we go ahead, it will help us to really chart a future where we would maintain the rule of law, but also we ensure that law enforcement agencies do not abuse power,” he concluded.