S. African court rules dropping of Zuma graft charges irrational

A South African court ordered that the decision by prosecutors to drop corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma in 2009 was irrational and should be set aside.

An application to review the decision by then acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe succeeds, Judge Aubrey Ledwaba said at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Friday. Mpshe was under pressure and made an “irrational decision” that ignored the importance of his oath of office that demands he acts independently and without fear or favor, the judge said. Zuma should face the charges in the indictment, he said.

Prosecutors, who alleged political interference in the case against Zuma, spent eight years investigating allegations that he took 4.07 million rand ($286,000) in bribes from arms dealers and charged him with corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering. The charges were dropped in April 2009, a month before he became president.

The Democratic Alliance, the country’s largest opposition party, has been fighting to have the charges reinstated ever since, and approached the courts to determine whether the decision to scrap the 783 charges of fraud and corruption against Zuma, 74, was rational and lawful.

Zuma’s term has been marred by scandal and controversy. Criticism of his government has intensified since December, when his decision to replace his respected finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, with a little-known lawmaker sparked a selloff of the rand and the nation’s bonds. The country is scheduled to hold local elections on Aug. 3.

A special South African police unit, known as the Hawks, is investigating corruption allegations against the Gupta family, who are friends with Zuma and are in business with his son. They’re probing whether the Guptas have any influence on government business. Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas in March said he was offered the top Treasury post by the family, which has denied any wrongdoing.

South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled on March 31 that the president “failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution” over his handling of a graft ombudsman report into spending on Zuma’s private residence.

– Bloomberg