South Africa’s chief prosecutor will say on Friday whether former president Jacob Zuma will face prosecution on corruption charges that haunted much of his term in office.
National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams is expected to announce his decision at 1230 GMT at the prosecuting authority’s head office in Pretoria, but whatever the decision it is expected to spark a firestorm of opposition.
If Abrahams does decide to pursue Zuma, the former president will likely appeal the ruling on a number of grounds and argue that the decision is illegitimate as Abrahams’ own position is uncertain.
In December, the High Court in Pretoria ordered then-deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to replace Abrahams, ruling that Zuma’s decision to appoint him was “null and void” because he was “conflicted” at the time.
If Abrahams decides not to prosecute Zuma, then a number of opposition parties and campaign groups are expected to either appeal the decision or bring their own private prosecution.
“If the National Prosecuting Authority fails to prosecute Zuma, AfriForum’s private prosecution unit, under the direction of advocate Gerrie Nel, puts in motion the process of private prosecution,” said the campaign group AfriForum, which advocates for its largely white membership, many of whom speak Afrikaans.
– ‘Charges hanging over him’ –
Nel is a former public prosecutor who attained worldwide prominence when he forensically dismantled Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius’ account of how his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp died, leading to the athlete’s murder conviction.
“The opposition are like a dog with a bone, they are not going to let it go. They are going to make (Abrahams) pay for his transgressions,” independent political analyst and author Nomavenda Mathiane told AFP.
“I don’t think Zuma can stay out of court — there’s too many charges hanging over him,” she added.
A court last year ruled against prosecutors’ 2009 decision to drop the corruption charges faced by Zuma months before he became president.
Zuma’s criminal charges relate to multi-billion dollar arms procurement deals struck by the government in the late 1990s and from which he is accused of profiting corruptly.
At the time, state prosecutors justified dropping the case by saying that tapped phone calls between officials in then-president Thabo Mbeki’s administration showed undue interference.
Zuma resigned as president last month embroiled in a storm of criticism and growing calls for him to step down following a series of corruption scandals while the country battled falling economic growth and record unemployment.