JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s High Court ruled Friday that state prosecutors must revisit a decision in 2009 to drop nearly 800 corruption-related charges against President Jacob Zuma. The move cranks up the political heat on Zuma amid a barrage of other corruption scandals.
The High Court’s ruling could clear the way for President Jacob Zuma to again be charged with 783 counts of criminal offenses for alleged kickbacks in a 1999 state arms deal.
Friday's ruling has caused jubilation from the country’s opposition.
“We welcome the fact that those charges must be continued and that Jacob Zuma must have what he has always wanted — to have his day in court in the pursuit of accountability and the rule of law in South Africa,“ said Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, the party that approached the High Court with the case.
The National Prosecuting Authority originally announced the charges in 2009.
But the head of the NPA, Mukotedi Mpshe, then quickly dropped them, saying secret tape recordings had revealed that the timing of those charges was meant to stop Zuma from running for office that year.
The High Court said Friday that decision was “irrational.”
This is just the latest in a recent string of scandals for Zuma. Opposition MP’s tried to impeach him earlier this month after the Constitutional Court ordered Zuma to pay back some $20 million in public funds used for non-security related upgrades to his private home.
The spokesman for the ruling African National Congress party, Zizi Kodwa, says Friday’s ruling has no impact on Zuma’s presidency.
“The court reviewed the decision of the NPA, not whether President Zuma is guilty or not. It does not arise. There are no charges against President Zuma. He remains innocent in terms of our bill of rights and the constitution.”
The decision has however increased the voices of those calling for Zuma to resign, both inside and outside the ANC.
Zuma’s office has not indicated if he will appeal the High Court’s decision. Experts say reinstating the charges could be a long legal process that could continue long after Zuma has left the presidency.
He is currently serving his second, and by law his final term, which finishes in 2019.