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South African Authorities Consider Charges Against ANC Leader Zuma

South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority says a decision on whether to prosecute newly elected African National Congress party president Jacob Zuma is imminent. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from Johannesburg the announcement came as Zuma was preparing to deliver his first speech as ANC leader.

Last year the National Prosecuting Authority was ordered by the courts to withdraw corruption charges against Jacob Zuma because it had sought too many postponements. It was told to return only when prosecutors were ready to proceed to trial.

Now, NPA spokesperson Tlali Tlali says investigations have reached an advanced stage.

"On the basis of the investigations carried out thus far, enough ground has been covered to a point where information or evidence suggests that there is prosecutable case," the spokesperson said. "The NPA is yet to make the decision on this matter; and that decision is imminent."

The investigation flows the 2005 corruption conviction of Zuma's then-financial advisor. The judge in that case said Zuma intervened to secure business contracts for his advisor and that the only way he could do that was to use his political office.

Zuma says the allegations are part of a conspiracy to keep him from higher office, and that the money he got was a repayable loan between good friends.

On Tuesday, Zuma was elected president of the ruling party; convincingly trouncing South African President Thabo Mbeki who was seeking a third term as party leader.

Speaking just hours before he would be elected deputy president of the African National Congress, Kgalema Motlanthe said if corruption charges are reinstated against Zuma, it is something the party will have to face.

"So that issue of the possibility or otherwise of fresh charges against Jacob Zuma is assessed in that context by the general membership because we do not have any means or authority to overrule them," he said. "They are the final arbiters in these cases. So if they elect him, we will have to live with that. And if he is charged, they as a membership will have to live with that, and cross that bridge when we get to it."

Motlanthe would likely replace Zuma as party president if Zuma is convicted. He added that the party needs ethical leaders.

"But I agree with you that we need a caliber of people who would always be in a position to say we have got nothing to hide," he said. "That is the kind of caliber that we need."

Since his election as party leader, the possibility that Zuma may be charged has taken on much greater significance. As leader of the African National Congress he is a strong contender to replace Mr. Mbeki as president of South Africa in 2009.