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South Africa awaits Zuma graft decision due next month

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(FILES) This file photo taken on December 17, 2017 shows South African and then African National Congress President Jacob Zuma looking on during a plenary meeting during the 54th ANC national congress in Johannesburg. South Africa’s ruling ANC party confirmed on January 22, 2018 that discussions were underway on President Jacob Zuma leaving office, but said no date for his departure had yet been agreed. / AFP PHOTO / GULSHAN KHAN

South African state prosecutors on Monday said they would next month release their decision on whether or not to prosecute former president Jacob Zuma for corruption.

Zuma faces the risk of jail over 18 criminal charges linked to 783 payments totalling four million rands ($345,000) that he allegedly received in connection with arms deals before he became president.

“A decision has been made,” but the announcement will be pronounced after 14 days, Luvuyo Mfaku, spokesman for the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA), told AFP.

After the two weeks, “the national director will inform the former president in writing and the parties that are involved” before going public, he said.

The charges were first brought against Zuma in 2005 but dropped by prosecutors in 2009 — clearing the way for him to become president — before their reinstatement two years ago.

In 2016, the High Court in Pretoria ordered that the charges be reinstated, but Zuma fought the case until losing in the Supreme Court of Appeal in October.

The opposition Democratic Alliance party has campaigned since 2009 to reactivate the charges relating to post-apartheid military contracts — one of many graft allegations that overshadowed Zuma’s presidency.

Zuma, who insists he is innocent, was forced to resign earlier this month after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party threatened to remove him from office.

His successor Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to tackle corruption, admitting it was a major problem in the government.

Zuma and other officials were accused of taking kickbacks from the $5 billion (4.2 billion euros) purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and other arms manufactured by five European firms, including British military equipment maker BAE Systems and French company Thales.

In 2005 Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik was convicted for facilitating bribes over the contracts and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was later released on medical parole.


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