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South African Court Gives Green Light for Zuma Case

South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal has ruled in favor of the prosecution in four applications that will give the state access to important evidence in its corruption case against Jacob Zuma, the country's former deputy president. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our bureau in Johannesburg.

The court's decision will allow the state access to documents seized in 2005 at the homes and offices of Jacob Zuma and two of his lawyers. The original court order, authorizing seizure of the documents, had been overturned by a lower court in Durban.

It also granted the prosecution access to original documents in Mauritius. These include the 2000 diary of Alain Thetard, then chief executive of the South African branch of the French arms manufacturer, now called Thint. The diary is thought to include details of a meeting between Thetard, Zuma and Shabir Shaik, Zuma's former financial advisor previously convicted on fraud and corruption charges, which the court at the time linked to Zuma.

The prosecution charges that at the meeting in 2000, the three discussed an annual payment of 77-thousand dollars from Thint to Zuma, which the state alleges was a bribe linked to South Africa's 7-billion dollar arms refurbishment program.

Zuma's lawyer Mike Hulley said in a statement, the court's majority decisions have strong constitutional law imperatives which impact fundamentally on Mr. Zuma's rights. He said an appeal will be filed with the Constitutional Court.

The court's decision comes just a month ahead of the national conference of the ruling African National Congress which will choose the party's leadership for the ensuing five years and at which Zuma is seeking to become president of the organization.

Consequently there has been widespread reaction, including from the ANC alliance partner, the Congress of South African Trade Unions which said the federation's support for his candidacy is unshaken by the development.

But others groupings, such as the opposition Democratic Alliance have called for charges against Zuma to be immediately reinstated or the ANC election of its leaders to be deferred. Alliance leader Helen Zille told national radio that if Zuma were elected leader of the ANC next month, it would have far-reaching implications.

"The point is that it is not a party political issue, the president of the ANC could well become the next president of South Africa, and I think the ANC owes it to the entire country and all the people to whom it is accountable, its voters and other people, in fact to ensure that the people who are up for president of the ANC are above reproach," Zille said.

ANC spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso says due process must be followed.

"Well as the African national congress we respect the court's decision and as we have consistently maintained, the law must be allowed to take its course," Rikhotso said.

It is unlikely that the prosecution will decide whether to reinstate the charges against Zuma until his appeal to the constitutional court is concluded.