A South African appellate court has re-instated corruption charges against the head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Jacob Zuma. The highly anticipated ruling comes several months ahead of national elections in which Zuma is a leading candidate.
A judge on South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeals, Louis Harms, Monday announced the court's five judges had unanimously overturned a ruling by a lower court which had thrown out corruption charges against Zuma noting "[t]he application is dismissed."
The independent prosecuting agency that had been pressing the Zuma case immediately said it would seek a new trial date.
The ANC also reacted quickly saying Zuma remained its candidate for president in elections due in several months and that it supported his right to pursue all available options.
Analysts say Zuma could appeal the latest ruling to South Africa's highest court, the Constitutional Court, or he could try to strike a deal with prosecutors.
Zuma for years has been fighting allegations of corruption that led to his dismissal in 2005 as South Africa's vice president by then-President Thabo Mbeki. But he remained ANC deputy president and was elected party president one year ago, defeating Mr. Mbeki during a confrontational congress.
Zuma and his supporters say the charges were politically motivated. His lawyers sought to have them dismissed on technical grounds.
The lower court judge ruled in favor of Zuma and also indicated there had been political meddling in the case by the Mbeki government.
As a result, the ANC under Zuma's leadership obliged Mr. Mbeki to resign as South Africa's president in September. A group of senior ANC leaders subsequently split away to form another party, the Congress of the People.
Monday's ruling dismissed the technical objections and severely criticized the lower court saying its focus on political interference was not legally correct.
"This aspect of the judgment is not about whether there was political meddling in the decision making process," said Harms. "It is about whether the findings relating to political meddling were appropriate or could be justified on the papers."
The ruling came two days after Zuma officially launched the ANC's election campaign at a rally attended by tens of thousands of supporters. Opposition parties are also gearing up for the campaign.
The electoral commission says some 150 parties and nearly two million new voters have been registered for the elections. President Kgalema Motlanthe next month is due to dissolve parliament paving the way for the vote within three months.