Supporters of the leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party have welcomed news that Jacob Zuma will appeal Monday's ruling that revives graft charges against him. Zuma's defense team announced Wednesday that it would soon approach the country's Constitutional Court to challenge Monday's ruling, which effectively clears the way for prosecutors to revive corruption charges against him. But some political analysts believe the announcement is a political strategy to delay Zuma's trial ahead of South Africa's presidential election, which he is heavily favored to win. Constitutional law expert Professor Shadrak Gutto tells reporter Peter Clottey that Zuma's chances of success in the new appeal are slim.
"He intends appealing against the judgment, which was handed down on Monday to the Supreme Court of Appeal. Now, in this particular matter, the Supreme Court of Appeal's judgment, there is a general feeling in the country among the legal fraternity that it was one of the best judgments that we have really seen coming out of our courts for a long time. And that it was one, which dealt with each issue, looked at the law on the points, looked at the constitution, and tried to interpret the constitution in such a way that it gives sense, given the facts that we had," Professor Gutto noted.
He said Zuma's chances of winning an appeal against Monday's ruling would be significantly slim.
"It is going to make it very difficult for an appeal on constitutional grounds and legal grounds really to have a chance of success," he said.
Professor Gutto said there could be an understanding that Zuma's defense move was primarily motivated to delay charges against him to proceed ahead of the upcoming election.
"That is an opinion, which may find some credence in the fact that Zuma has made so many appeals on so many issues that has substantially made a delay in any hearing of the charges against him in a court of law. But we must accept from a constitutional point of view and as a lawyer personally, I have to say that you can never refuse an accused person the right to make an appeal even if it is on technical grounds, whatever the motive. In this case of course the suspicion is that it would delay the matter until the elections take place," Professor Gutto noted.
He said the ruling ANC would be plunged into controversy if it wins a majority in the elections and attempts to amend the constitution.
"And once the election has taken place, assuming that the ruling party wins the majority, he (Zuma) would be the president. And if he is, then there is a lot of talk within the party itself that they want to change the law and the constitution to give immunity to a sitting president. Now, that is a political strategy and it is one which is going to be extremely controversial because it means putting in place a law that would encourage presidents to abuse the legal system," he said.
Professor Gutto said ongoing negotiations between Zuma's defense team and the national prosecutors could lead to a possible compromise to resolve the legal troubles of the ruling party's presidential candidate in the upcoming election.
"A compromise could also b reached in terms of plea bargaining where he (Zuma) concedes to some wrongdoing and in exchange, he is therefore given some light sentence or charged with a light offense, and so on. But all of that would be done in the public domain, and I believe that Jacob Zuma so far has strenuously tried to say he was involved in no wrongdoing. And plea bargainers actually advise him to concede that there was some wrongdoing. So no one knows where that would be going. But it is going to be very difficult for the National Prosecuting Authority to really bargain with him (Zuma) and let him off scot free," Professor Gutto pointed out.
Zuma was charged for a second time shortly after being elected president of the ANC at the end of 2007 for alleged bribery in connection with a South African arms deal.
An appeals court Monday upheld a National Directorate of Public Prosecutions' application to appeal a ruling which had freed the ANC presidential candidate from the lengthy prosecution they had been working on against him. The appeals court judge overturned an earlier court ruling which dismissed graft charges against Zuma, saying the lower court judge overstepped his authority.