Zuma suffers court blow

In a blow to Zuma, the court allowed for the use of a diary and other documents from Mauritius in the trial.

Zuma had tried to block the NPA from obtaining the documents.

Nine of the 10 Constitutional Court judges ruled that warrants used in raids on Zuma and his lawyer were valid and the state could use seized documents in its prosecution.

The ANC leader is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from French arms firm Thint. He denies the charges and is expected to go on trial for corruption, money-laundering, fraud and racketeering.

The trial is due to start tomorrow.

Analysts have said Zuma’s battle against the charges will have a strong hand in deciding whether or not he takes over from President Thabo Mbeki when he steps down at the end of his term next year.

A protracted trial could mean Zuma’s case eventually overlaps with general elections in 2009, potentially causing further political instability in Africa’s largest economy.

“There’s no doubt that it’s a setback for him (Zuma), even if you consider the amount of effort he has been putting to try and make sure that that evidence is not used, ” said political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi.

Mbeki fired Zuma from his post as deputy president in 2005, after the arms scandal broke, and Zuma was later charged with bribery and fraud.

His corruption case collapsed in 2006 after a judge said prosecutors did not have enough evidence, but prosecutors charged him again in 2007.

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it was very pleased with the court outcome.

“We are certainly very pleased with the outcome today,” NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali said after the ruling by the court in Johannesburg.

“The NPA is court ready.”

The ANC said it respected the court’s ruling and would continue to support Zuma, but remained disturbed by parts of the investigation.

“The ANC reiterates its view that the manner in which this case has been handled by the authorities over the last few years has reinforced the perception that the ANC president is being persecuted rather than merely prosecuted,” it said.

“It has also fuelled doubts about his chances of receiving a fair hearing.”

Zuma and his lawyer Michael Hulley have argued that the Scorpions elite crime fighting unit, which is part of the NPA and has been collecting evidence against Zuma violated their rights when they raided their properties in 2005. They said the search warrants used were illegal and violated their privacy, property and other rights.

Zuma’s supporters, including the powerful COSATU labour federation and the South African Communist Party (SACP) have said the case is a conspiracy by Mbeki backers to ensure that Zuma does not become president come 2009.

They say state organs were used to smear Zuma and derail his political ambitions.

August 2008
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