Zuma faces 800 graft charges: Court

A SHOT IN THE ARM: South Africa’s main opposition party Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane talks to journalists following the High court’s ruling on the decision that corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma could be reinstated, on Friday, in Pretoria. (AFP)
Updated 30 April 2016
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Zuma faces 800 graft charges: Court

PRETORIA: South African President Jacob Zuma should face almost 800 corruption charges that were dropped in 2009, a judge said Friday, piling further pressure on the embattled leader.
The charges, relating to a multi-billion dollar arms deal, were dropped by the chief state prosecutor in a move that cleared the way for Zuma to be elected president just weeks later.
“The decision... to discontinue the charges against Mr.Zuma is irrational and should be reviewed and set aside,” Pretoria High Court judge Aubrey Ledwaba said.
“Mr Zuma should face the charges as applied.”
The prosecutor had justified dropping the charges by saying that tapped phone calls between senior officials in then-president Thabo Mbeki’s administration showed political interference in the case.
The recordings, which became known as the “spy tapes,” were kept secret but finally released in 2014 to the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), after a five-year legal battle.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Friday’s court ruling was a major blow against the president, who has faced months of criticism over various corruption scandals and the country’s dire economic outlook.
“Today is a great victory for the rule of law. Ultimately Jacob Zuma must face prosecution,” Maimane said after attending the court hearing.
“We are deeply, deeply delighted. Jacob Zuma must have... his day in court.” The DA called for the National Prosecuting Authority to immediately revive the 783 charges of corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering dating back to 1999.
But the legal wrangling is set to continue, with the ruling likely to go to appeal.
“These charges were formally withdrawn... and as such there is no pending litigation before court against President Zuma,” the presidency said in a statement.
“The President has noted the decision of the court and will give consideration to the judgment and its consequences.”
The president last month lost another major legal case when the country’s highest court found he violated the constitution over the use of public funds to upgrade his private residence.
The so-called “security” work, which cost taxpayers $24 million, included a swimming pool, chicken run, cattle enclosure and an amphitheater.
The DA and other opposition parties attempted to impeach him, but the ruling African National Congress (ANC) used its majority to easily defeat the motion in parliament.
Zuma has also been beset by allegations that a wealthy Indian migrant family had such influence over him that it could decide ministerial appointments.
Pressure on the president to be ousted or to resign has grown with several veteran leaders of the party that brought Nelson Mandela to power in 1994 calling for him to step down.
Zuma, 74, will have completed two terms in 2019 and is not eligible to run for president again, but the ANC, which is packed with his loyalists, could replace him ahead of the next general election.
Last week, a commission he set up cleared all government officials of corruption over the 1999 arms deal.
Zuma himself was accused of having accepted bribes from international arms manufacturers.
His adviser, Schabir Shaik, was jailed for 15 years on related charges in 2005, with the judge saying there was “overwhelming” evidence of a corrupt relationship between the two.
Shaik was released on medical parole in 2009, the year Zuma was elected president.
Opposition parties hope to gain ground against the all-powerful ANC at local elections on August 3.
“The judgment may not necessarily force the president to resign,” Shadrack Gutto, director for the Center for African Renaissance Studies at the University of South Africa, told AFP.
“He will try to maneuver through the legal processes and so on, but it could have serious implications for the ruling party as we go to elections.”
Zuma’s competency was also questioned when he sacked two finance ministers within days in December, triggering a collapse in the rand and a major withdrawal of foreign investment.


Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

Updated 12 min ago
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Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

  • Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition
  • A series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections alleged that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade

MANILA: Opponents of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed shock and outrage on Friday at police moves to charge dozens of them with sedition, calling it persecution aimed at stamping out scrutiny of his increasingly powerful rule.
Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition for orchestrating a series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections. The videos feature a hooded man alleging that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade, which they deny.
The man, who had said he was a witness, later surrendered and appeared with police on television to say his claims were false and that he was cajoled into making the videos by opposition members. They included the vice president, lawyers, Catholic priests, a former attorney general, and incumbent and former lawmakers, the man said.
The justice department is looking into the complaint, which is the latest move against Duterte’s detractors who say the aim is to create a power monopoly for a president who already enjoys a legislative super-majority and a public approval rating of about 80 percent.
Duterte insists he is open to challenges but has shown no qualms about threatening high-profile critics, several of whom he said last month he would jail if they tried to impeach him.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte had no involvement in the police sedition complaint.
“We have nothing to do with this case, not at all, absolutely nothing,” he told news channel ANC. “Let the judicial process do its work.”
Antonio Trillanes, a former senator and Duterte’s strongest critic, described the complaint as “political persecution and harassment” intended to stifle democratic dissent.
A spokesman for Vice President Leni Robredo, who was not Duterte’s running mate and was elected separately, called the complaint “completely baseless.” Her party ally Senator Francis Pangilinan said it was part of a series of moves toward removing her from office.
Leila de Lima, an anti-Duterte senator detained on drugs charges, said it was “hogwash, pure hogwash,” and Samira Gutoc, a candidate in recent Senate elections, urged the police not to become partisan.
“I really am baffled,” Gutoc said of being accused of involvement.