South Africa's chief prosecutor Shaun Abrahams announced that former president Jacob Zuma will be prosecuted in connection with a 1990s arms deal.

South Africa's former president Jacob Zuma, seen here in a file picture, will be prosecuted for corruption.
South Africa's former president Jacob Zuma, seen here in a file picture, will be prosecuted for corruption. (AFP)

South African chief prosecutor Shaun Abrahams announced on Friday that he was reinstating corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma, who was forced to resign by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) last month.

Zuma faces 783 counts of corruption relating to a  $2.5 billion (30 billion rand) government arms deal in the late 1990s. They were filed but then dropped by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) shortly before Zuma ran for president in 2009.

Abrahams made the announcement at a press conference in Pretoria.

He said that he had informed Zuma of the decision in writing.

Referring to Zuma's representations against having the charges reinstated, Abrahams said: 

"Mr Zuma's representations, broadly speaking, largely relate to allegations of a prosecution characterised by prosecutorial manipulation impropriety, fair trial abuses, prosecutorial misconduct, deliberate leaking of information to the media, and irrational decisions made by directors of public prosecutions along with inexplicable delays for approximately 15 years in bringing this matter to trial."

Abrahams said Zuma blamed the NPA for the allegations that he levelled against them.

"Mr Zuma in addition disputes all the allegations against him and records that he lacked the requisite attention to commit any of the crimes listed in the indictment."

Abrahams said he believed that a trial court would be the best place to test Zuma's allegations against the NPA and that he believed there were reasonable prospects for a successful prosecution.

Shadow over politics

The deal to buy European military kit has cast a shadow over politics in Africa's most industrialised economy for years.

Zuma – then deputy president – was linked to the deal through Schabir Shaikh, his former financial adviser who was jailed for corruption.

Shaikh's conviction almost torpedoed Zuma's bid for president but the charges against him were dropped on a technicality in 2009.

He became president shortly afterwards, but his opponents fought a lengthy legal battle to have them reinstated.

Zuma countered with his own legal challenges and representations to Abrahams.

South Africa's High Court reinstated the charges in 2016, and the Supreme Court upheld that decision last year, rejecting an appeal by Zuma and describing the NPA's initial decision to set aside the charges as "irrational."

It then fell to Abrahams to decide whether or not the NPA would pursue a case against Zuma, who resigned as head of state on February 14 on the orders of the ANC.

Zuma has also been implicated by South Africa's anti-corruption watchdog in a 2016 report that alleges the Gupta family, billionaire friends of Zuma, used links with him to win state contracts. The Guptas and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing.

Abrahams said there was a non-governmental organisation that had filed an application for "the permanent stay of the  prosecution of Mr Zuma" in the Cape High Court.

He said that he had instructed the attorney general to oppose that application.


A brief statement issued by the ruling ANC said that the party “noted” the decision to reinstate charges against Zuma.

The statement said that the party had trust in the the country’s judicial system.

“We continue to assert the inalienable right of all in our country, including Comrade Jacob Zuma, to be presumed innocent until and if proven guilty.”

The decision to prosecute Zuma was welcomed by opposition parties.

In a statement, Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), said, "The DA welcomes the decision by the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, to proceed with the criminal trial of Jacob Zuma. This is a victory for all who have fought for years for Jacob Zuma to face accountability for his crimes. That accountability starts now."

He said there should be no further delay in bringing the matter to trial and that the party had briefed its legal teams to oppose any attempt to delay the prosecution.

The Economic Freedom Fighters party also welcomed the decision with party spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi saying, "This decision comes after many years of manipulation of legal processes to try and avoid this inevitable eventuality. The prosecution of Zuma will send a strong message to all kleptomaniacs within and outside the government that they can never loot the state and not meet the consequences thereof."

He further called for Abrahams to step down. Abrahams, who was appointed by Zuma, is widely perceived as being biased towards Zuma and those associated with Zuma.

The Inkatha Freedom Party's parliamentary leader, Narend Singh, said, “The decision to proceed with charges of corruption against former president Zuma, is long overdue but very welcome. The IFP has always contended that Zuma must have his day in court and views in a very serious light the obstruction that has been encountered particularly at the hand of NPA, who should have been above and beyond reproach in prosecuting criminal activity without fear, favour or prejudice,”

“The decision by Shaun Abrahams to prosecute Jacob Zuma only now, is in itself a damning indictment on the state of capture of the NPA under the Zuma presidency,” he said.

Zuma family

Zuma's son, Edward Zuma, declined to speak to TRT World. He said, "I only speak on family-related issues, not on issues of that nature."

There was no immediate reaction from the ruling African National Congress, which former president Jacob Zuma headed.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies