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

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“These charges were formally withdrawn...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.


UK to reopen thousands of shops in easing of coronavirus lockdown, says Boris Johnson

Updated 25 May 2020

UK to reopen thousands of shops in easing of coronavirus lockdown, says Boris Johnson

  • From June 1, outdoor markets and car showrooms could be reopened
  • Johnson is keen to restart an economy which has been all but shut down since Britain entered a lockdown

LONDON: Britain will reopen thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centers next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, setting out a timetable for businesses as part of moves to ease the coronavirus lockdown.
He told a news conference that from June 1, outdoor markets and car showrooms could be reopened as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines, and all other non-essential retail from June 15 if the government’s tests are met.
Johnson is keen to restart an economy which has been all but shut down since Britain entered a lockdown to try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, but also fears a second peak of infection if measures are eased too quickly.

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READ MORE: Aide to British PM Dominic Cummings says he doesn’t regret COVID-19 lockdown trip

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“Today, I want to give the retail sector notice of our intentions to reopen shops, so they too can get ready,” Johnson said. “There are careful but deliberate steps on the road to rebuilding our country.”
The government said shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, would be expected to be able to reopen from June 15, giving them three weeks to prepare.
It said that businesses would only be able to open from those dates once they had completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks.
“The high street sits at the heart of every community in the country,” Business minister Alok Sharma said in a statement.
“Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK.”