A Closer Look: Revived Corruption Charges Against Zuma

In a televised address, Mr. Shaun Abrahams, the national director of public prosecutions at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in South Africa, announced that he would be reviving 16 charges against the former South African President, Mr. Jacob Zuma. These include 12 charges of fraud, one of racketeering, two of corruption, and one for money laundering.

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The charges are related to an incident in the late 1990s, when Mr. Zuma allegedly accepted bribes during a $2.5 billion arms deal between the government and a French weapons supplier. He was indicted at the end of 2007 on a range of charges associated with the deal, but the NPA dropped them in 2009, thus clearing Mr. Zuma’s path to the presidency. Then, in Autumn 2017, while Mr. Zuma was still in office, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a ruling to reinstate the charges, and condemned the 2009 decision to drop them.

In 2014, Mr. Zuma was accused of using tax payer money to pay for upgrades to his rural residence, including a swimming pool, amphitheatre, and cattle pen.

Mr. Zuma resigned from his post in February under considerable pressure from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. The ANC has since affirmed its confidence in the country’s criminal justice system, and cautioned that Mr. Zuma has the right to be presumed innocent until and if proven guilty.

Mr. Abrahams said that there are “reasonable prospects of successful prosecution of Mr. Zuma on the charges listed in the indictment.”

This is but the latest in a series of reckonings against corruption in South Africa. Other avenues have included an impending judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. Implications in a 2016 watchdog report alleged that the Gupta family, billionaire friends of Mr. Zuma, used connections to him to win state contracts and influence cabinet appointments. State capture refers to a type of systemic political corruption, in which private interests significantly influence a state’s decision-making processes.

Additionally, there are at least three separate parliamentary inquiries into corruption at state-owned enterprises ongoing in Parliament. A spokesperson for the NPA said there are hundreds of files related to state capture across state-owned enterprises and provincial governments– asset forfeiture will be primarily used as the first step toward addressing corruption across the public sector.

Further reading on red flags associated with state-owned enterprises may be found here on Centry Blog.  

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