South African Judge Chris Nicholson has declared invalid a decision to prosecute African National Congress president, Jacob Zuma, on charges that include corruption and racketeering. However, as VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our bureau in Johannesburg, his decision was made on a legal technicality.
Judge Nicholson said that in making its decision to prosecute Jacob Zuma, the National Director of Public Prosecutions failed to adhere to his own guidelines and public statements to allow Zuma to make representations before a decision to prosecute him was finalized.
"When [the National Director of Public Prosecutions] made [his decision], he told the applicant that he would not hear any of his representations," he said. "I am of the view that the applicant had a legitimate expectation that his representations be heard."
Judge Nicholson said that consequently the decision last December by the director to prosecute Zuma was invalid.
"It is declared that the decisions taken by the national prosecuting authority to prosecute the applicant is invalid and is set aside," he ordered.
Judge Nicholson made it clear that his decision was based on procedural matters and not on the merits of the case.
"I must repeat that his application has nothing to do with the guilt or otherwise of the applicant," he said. "It deals only with the procedural point relating to his right to make representations before the respondent makes a decision on whether to charge him."
The judge added that the National Prosecutions Authority is at liberty to proceed against Zuma again once it has corrected its procedural error.
In his application Zuma also alleged that the decision to prosecute him was politically motivated to undermine his aspirations to become president of the African National Congress - a post to which he was elected last December. Citing a number of examples where it appeared that the Prosecuting Authority may have been influenced by members of Cabinet, the judge said Zuma may be correct.
"I am therefore not convinced that the applicant was incorrect in averring [asserting] political meddling in his prosecution," he said.
In a mobile telephone text message sent to VOA, NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali said the authority respects the decision of the court and that it will study the judgment before deciding how to proceed.
Opposition parties say they will respect the court's decision but note that it has no bearing on the merits of the case. In a statement the leader of the United Democratic Movement, Bantu Holomisa said he hopes that Zuma' supporters will stop questioning the impartiality of the judiciary. He added that Zuma now has no excuse not to subject himself to normal court procedures and answer any charges put to him.
The ANC declared the ruling a victory for justice and the constitution adding the party believes its leader has been subjected to a vindictive prosecution. As leader of the ANC, Zuma is the main contender to become president of South Africa next year.