South Africa's appeals court will decide Monday whether or not to grant the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) the legal maneuver to prosecute the president of the ruling party on graft charges. This comes after a high court judge last September threw out the corruption case against African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma citing political manipulation. But the NPA appealed the high court ruling that it had not followed proper procedures in charging Zuma. The NPA also described remarks made by the high court judge, which suggested political interference in the graft charges, as out of place. From the capital, Pretoria, constitutional law expert Professor Shadrak Gutto tells reporter Peter Clottey that the ruling would be significant in possibly changing the political landscape.
"The Supreme Court of Appeal is going to rule on an application that was made on an appeal by the National Prosecuting Authority against the judgment of a high court judge who had made a ruling that the National Prosecuting Authority did not follow the proper procedure in charging Jacob Zuma or in making a decision to charge him with of course corruption and so on. And this is because the National Prosecuting Authority did not give him (Zuma) an opportunity to make what the constitution calls representation," Professor Gutto said.
He said today's ruling could possibly have an impact on the upcoming general election.
"Today is the real day when we have to hear the judgment. And if of course they decide in favor of the National Prosecuting Authority, then it sets in motion the fact that Jacob Zuma may very well be charged and trial may begin," he said.
Professor Gutto said if the ruling goes against the NPA, then Zuma's legal trouble would have subsided.
"Let us assume that the Supreme Court of Appeal rules against the National Prosecuting Authority. What will happen then is of course the National Prosecuting Authority will appeal to the constitutional court. And one expects the constitutional court to hear the matter and decide and dispense with it as soon as possible because we are going towards elections in April, and it is important for these things to be sorted out," Professor Gutto noted.
He said a ruling against Zuma today could worsen his legal troubles even if he wins the April general election.
"If the ruling is one which is in favor of the National Prosecuting Authority, then it is even more serious because I believe that the ruling party, the African National Congress, would have to think seriously whether they put up Jacob Zuma as their candidate for the presidency in the coming election in April," he said.
Professor Gutto said the ruling party would have to rescind its decision to maintain Zuma as presidential candidate in April's general election if today's ruling favors the National Prosecuting Authority.
"We have also heard statements from the same African National Congress indicating that they have started talking to the prosecuting authority to try and find some other solutions to the problem because they realize that it is a real big hindrance. So they do realize on the other hand for political posturing, it is quite easy to say that they will not change their mind in terms of who is to lead the party," Professor Gutto noted.
Zuma, who is the presidential candidate of the ruling ANC, is expected to win South Africa's April general election.