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Zuma to Remain S. African Presidential Candidate Despite Corruption Charges


Jacob Zuma's trial on corruption charges has been scheduled for August, long after he is expected to be chosen South Africa's president. He intends to remain the African National Congress's candidate for president despite the charges.

Jacob Zuma says he intends to remain the ANC's candidate for South African president even though, as president of the country, he could spend a significant proportion of his time shuttling between the presidential offices in Pretoria, and the courts in Pietermaritzburg. He said he would be admitting guilt by stepping aside.

"If I did so, I would be pleading guilty, when I am not guilty. And I am not going to do it," he said.

Zuma and his lieutenants continue to argue that the charges against him are political. He said he has been demonized in order to prevent him from assuming high office.

Despite facing charges on and off since 2005, Zuma has not once had to answer to any of those charges in a court of law, largely because of his intense legal campaign to prevent the case being heard.

That campaign continues. He has approached the Constitutional Court, the country's highest, to set aside a decision last month by the Supreme Court of Appeals that overturned a controversial lower court ruling. The lower court found the decision to prosecute was invalid on technical grounds. By overturning that ruling, the Appeals Court effectively sanctioned Zuma's continued prosecution.

And on August 25, the date his trial is set to begin, Zuma will file an application for a permanent stay of prosecution. But Tlali Tlali, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, said this entire timeline could slip, depending on what happens in the Constitutional Court.

"Unfortunately it is not clear at this stage as to when the main criminal case will in earnest get under way because we have these pending applications," said Tlali. "You should also be aware that the settlement agreement also states that in the event the constitutional court finds in favor of Mr. Zuma, then it means we are back to square one."

If Zuma's application for a permanent stay is granted, and it is not appealed by the National Prosecuting Authority, the entire case will have foundered, and Zuma will be at liberty to continue as if he had never been charged.

If his application fails, South Africa could have a president who spends more time in court than he does attending to affairs of state.

This is because South Africans go to the polls around April of this year. Then the newly elected members of parliament will nominate presidential candidates and elect from their number a president of the country. The ruling ANC, which is expected to retain its dominance in parliament, at present continues to insist that Zuma will be the party's nominee for president. If he is nominated, he is likely to become South Africa's next president.

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