South Africa court orders release of tapes in Zuma corruption case

[JURIST] South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered the release of taped phone conversations about corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Zuma had applied to prevent the tapes from being released while the opposition party, Democratic Alliance, sought access to them. The case has followed the leader since before he took office in 2009 and the conversations on the recordings were cited as a reason to drop fraud and corruption charges against Zuma before he became president. The prosecutor at the time said the conversations showed there was a political conspiracy against Zuma, but the recordings were never made public. Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille applauded the court decision [AP report] and said that her party will analyze the tapes to determine if there were legal reasons to withdraw the charges against Zuma. In 2009, the National Prosecuting Authority's acting director Mokotedi Mpshe said he dropped the charges against Zuma because of prosecutorial misconduct after Zuma's legal team brought him taped phone conversation allegedly between prosectors and a head of the now disbanded crime-fighting unit called the Scorpions about the charges and their timing. President Zuma's lawyers have argued that the Democratic Alliance party would use the tapes for political gain. Zuma also faces questions about $20 million in government money spent to upgrade his private rural home. South Africa's public prosecutor submitted a report suggesting that he pay back to the government a portion of the funds that were not spend on security upgrades.

Zuma was ousted [JURIST report] as the country's deputy president in 2005 after an aide was convicted of corruption. He was also charged with rape, but he was ultimately acquitted and reinstated [JURIST report] as African National Congress (ANC) deputy vice president. In July 2008 the South African Constitutional Court rejected a motion [JURIST report] by Zuma to exclude evidence from the corruption trial. Zuma had argued [JURIST report] that evidence seized in 2005 raids by the Directorate of Special Investigations should be thrown out because the raids violated his rights to privacy and a fair trial. The court upheld the warrants used in the raids, confirming a November 2007 decision [JURIST report] by the Supreme Court of Appeal. He was first charged with corruption in 2005, but those charges were later dismissed [JURIST report] because prosecutors failed to follow proper procedures.

 

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