South African opposition political parties have sharply condemned the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) decision to drop corruption charges against African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma. They are vowing to seek legal recourse ahead of the April 22nd election. The NPA announced Monday it was dropping graft charges against Zuma ending a long legal battle that had raised doubts over Zuma's ability to govern if elected president. The opposition parties claim the dropping of the eight year old corruption case against Zuma leaves South Africa's democracy in peril. Zuma supporters have maintained the charges were politically motivated aimed to prevent him from becoming South Africa's next president.
Constitutional law expert Professor Shadrak Gutto tells reporter Peter Clottey the opposition has a slim chance of winning a legal case against Zuma.
"Legally there are probably two alternatives of what anyone can do whether they are with the opposition or not. One is to be able to see the avenue of private prosecution of Jacob Zuma and that can be pursued within the law that an individual or an entity may institute private prosecution. Where the National Prosecuting Authority is not willing to do so and in this case they would have a strong case because the National Prosecuting Authority indicated that on merit, there is a very strong case against Jacob Zuma," Gutto noted.
He said the opposition can also go after the prosecuting authority for failing to press charges against Jacob Zuma.
"The other basically is to take a legal action which is not a criminal one against the National Prosecuting Authority to get a declaration that the National Prosecuting Authority did not act in a way that is constitutional," he said.
Gutto said although the opposition is allowed to legally pursue charges against the ANC leader, chances of the of success are slender
"If they pursue the private prosecution, the chances are slim because first of all this is a very complicated cases involving racketeering, corruption and so many other criminal groupings that the evidence is with the National Prosecuting Authority. So, whoever is going to try private prosecution must get full the cooperation of the National Prosecuting Authority which at this stage I don't think they will get or we can presume they won't get . So, from that point of view pursuing that line will definitely score political points, but it will not yield the proper result of having a really a genuine prosecution process," Gutto pointed out.
He said there are no clear indications that the charges dropped against the leader of the ANC would be beneficial or not ahead of April 22 general election, which the ruling party is overwhelmingly expected to win.
"It is very difficult to call because all along even when these charges were on already, there was a split in public opinion. Those who are diehard supporters of the ANC and its strategic alliances would still go on irrespective of what happens. Then the other are those who think that institutions of justice are being undermined and that Jacob Zuma has been trying to use the government to put pressure to try and weaken the National Prosecuting Authority and so on. And they will continue to be even more reinforced in their belief that that is what has happened at the moment. And o from that point of view one can say that it is not one which is automatically going to benefit the ANC in the elections, but at the same time you can't say it is one that is substantially decrease the prospect of the ANC in the election," he said.
Monday's announcement by the NPA to drop all graft charges against Zuma followed weeks of media reports that the charges would be dropped amid news that prosecutors were considering new representations in the case.
The opposition parties described as unfortunate the decision by the NPA to drop the graft charges against Zuma with less than two weeks before the general election. They called on the ANC leader to clear his name in court, saying the the NPA has bowed to intense political pressure from the ruling party.
Jacob Zuma was facing 16 charges linked to a multi-billion rand government arms deal, including racketeering, money-laundering, two of corruption and 12 of fraud. But the NPA said Monday that the case was closed and no further charges would be brought against Zuma. The announcement paves the way for him to become South Africa's next president without the prospect of impending prosecution.
Some South African political observers believe dropping the charges on what they described as a mere technicality without establishing Zuma's innocence meant the eight-year-old allegations of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering would continue to dog him.
Zuma is widely expected to become South Africa's next president due to the overwhelming majority the ruling ANC party enjoys despite anticipated stiff challenge from the opposition.