September 14, 2006

Zuma's corruption trial collapsed

A judge has thrown out a corruption case against former South African deputy president Jacob Zuma. Judge Herbert Msimang stopped short of completely dismissing graft charges against Zuma, leaving the door open for the prosecution to reframe the charges. Zuma was accused of having a corrupt relationship with his former financial advisor and taking bribes from a French arms company in exchange for helping to clinch multimillion-dollar government contracts. The judge dismissed the case with the explanation that the prosecution had "limped from one disaster to another" and had failed to follow correct procedure.
Zuma and his supporters have claimed that the rape and corruption charges were part of a plot to keep him from becoming president. He was sacked as deputy president after being linked to the graft scandal, and also drew international criticism for his comments about AIDS during the rape trial. The left wing of the tripartite alliance, which consists of the ruling African National Congress, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (COSATU), has embraced Zuma as their champion in apparent opposition to Mbeki's leadership. Support for Zuma has also fractured the left, mainly within the SACP and COSATU. Divisions in COSATU became evident at the federation's conference to elect a new leadership, when the pro-Zuma camp fielded a candidate against current COSATU president Willie Madisha, who has resisted attempts to get him to support the former deputy president. The trade union federation has also called for Jacob Zuma to be reinstated as deputy president. Cosatu has passed a resolution saying Zuma had been "maliciously prosecuted". Unless another case is brought against him, Zuma will be free to contest next year for the leadership of the governing African National Congress Party, ANC. Should he take that position he would be a firm favourite to succeed Thabo Mbeki as the next South African president in 2009. (Rts)

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