Head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Shaun Abrahams announced on March 16 that former-President Jacob Zuma is set to face corruption charges. Citing “reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution,” BBC reported that Abrahams concluded that a “trial court was the appropriate place for the matter to be decided.”
The corruption charges are linked to a $2.5 billion arms deal in 1999, the biggest deal since the end of apartheid, according to BBC. Although the contracts were said to have been signed in order to modernize South Africa’s military, critics slammed the deal as a corrupt act. South African, French, German, Italian, Swedish, and British companies were implicated in the deal, which was ultimately deemed a scheme to “support an extravagant lifestyle,” reported BBC. The arms deal involved 783 questionable payments and ultimately led to the imprisonment of Schabir Shaikh, former financial advisor under the Zuma administration. According to Al Jazeera, the case was abandoned by the NPA shortly before Zuma’s re-election in 2009.
Two of the former-president’s 16 charges include racketeering and money laundering. In a recent Voice of America report, Abrahams explained, “After consideration of the matter, I am of the view that there are reasonable prospects of successful prosecution of Mr. Zuma on the charges listed in the indictment.” Abrahams has been firm in suggesting that Zuma will be successfully tried for corruption allegations, stating that he is “mindful that everyone is equal before the law…. Similarly, the NPA… will ensure that alleged perpetrators of crime will be prosecuted without fear, favor of prejudice, irrespective of their station in life.”
As previously reported in the Caravel, Jacob Zuma resigned as president of the African National Congress on February 14 after mounting pressure and a loss of support from the ruling African National Congress (ANC). The ANC claimed his resignation offered “certainty to the people of South Africa.” Shortly after Zuma’s departure, former ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa, who served as deputy president since 2014, was elected president. Upon his inauguration, the president declared a “new dawn,” assuring South Africans that he would take on corruption and shrink the ANC’s cabinet, reported Reuters. In his first address, Ramaphosa declared, “This is the year in which we will turn the tide of corruption in our public institutions.”
Responding to the recent development, ANC secretary general Ace Magashule publicly affirmed the ANC’s “confidence in our country’s criminal justice system” and its “commitment to the constitutionally enshrined principle of equality of all before the law.”
Media responses to the prosecution have largely held that Zuma is in a rather precarious position. The former president post-resignation is “more vulnerable than ever” post-registration, reported Quartz.