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$2.20bn arms deal: Zuma asks prosecutors to drop graft charges

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South African President Jacob Zuma arrives to attend the Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) during the 30th annual AU summit in Addis Ababa on January 29, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Thursday it had received arguments from President Jacob Zuma on why he should not be prosecuted for corruption.

The NPA said it received the documents on Wednesday night, after extending a deadline for Zuma to provide reasons why 783 counts of corruption relating to a 30 billion rand (2.20 billion dollars) arms deal arranged in the late 1990s should not be reinstated.

NAN reports that on Dec. 11, 2017, the NPA extended the deadline for Zuma to submit arguments on why he should not be prosecuted for corruption.

NAN reports that South Africa’s High Court reinstated the charges in 2016 and the Supreme Court upheld that decision in October, rejecting an appeal by Zuma and describing the NPA’s decision to set aside the charges as “irrational”.

The NPA said then that Zuma had until Nov. 30, 2017 to make submissions before it decided whether to pursue the charges.

In October, the Supreme Court ruling lifted the rand currency against the dollar as investors bet that Zuma’s removal may be inching closer.

NAN reports that on Wednesday, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) urged Parliament to postpone the annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) until Zuma steps down.

Zuma is scheduled to deliver SONA in Parliament on Feb. 8.

There have been calls for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to recall Zuma and deprive him of the right to deliver SONA.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said he has written to Parliament Speaker Baleka Mbete, requesting that this year’s SONA be postponed until Zuma has been removed from office and Parliament is afforded an opportunity to elect a new president.

SONA is an annual event in South Africa, in which the president reports on the status of the nation, normally to the resumption of a joint sitting of Parliament (the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces).

ANC officials have given conflicting remarks about the fate of Zuma, with some claiming that Zuma would be recalled before SONA and others rejecting the allegations.

The ANC’s National Working Committee (NWC) reportedly has requested that Zuma be removed before SONA, but ANC’s Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte has said Zuma is “going nowhere.”

“It is no secret that there is a battle within the ANC and the national executive, with each side holding starkly differing policies, ideological positions and plans of action,” Maimane said.

Since Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as ANC President in December, pressure has been mounting on Zuma to resign.

Zuma has been embroiled in a series of corruption scandals.

According to the new rules of Parliament adopted last year, Parliament is currently open for business, and does not require a SONA for the House and its committees to continue its work.


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