South African prosecutors have dropped corruption charges against ruling party leader Jacob Zuma, who is expected to become president, ending a long legal battle that had raised doubts over his ability to govern.
Chief prosecutor Mokotedi Mpshe said the former head of the country’s elite anti-crime unit had manipulated the legal system and cited “abuses of process” uncovered in taped conversations for the decision. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the case was now closed.
“In light of the above, I have come to the difficult conclusion that it is neither possible, nor desirable for the NPA to continue with the prosecution of Mr Zuma,” Mpshe, acting head of the NPA, told a news conference.
Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) is widely expected to win an April 22 election and choose him as president of Africa’s biggest economy.
Dropping the corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering charges ends a case that has dragged on for eight years and damaged Zuma’s credibility as a leader.
The case has been closely followed by investors looking for political stability in Africa’s biggest economy and has raised questions about the independence of South Africa’s judiciary.
Mpshe called for an investigation into the abuses of process but said there was no conclusive evidence that former president Thabo Mbeki — Zuma’s arch foe — was involved.
Zuma has said he has been the victim of a political conspiracy ,while his opponents have accused the ANC of back-room deals to clear his name.
Zuma denies wrongdoing. His lawyer was not immediately available for comment.
Seeing the charges dropped would be a great relief for the resilient Zuma after a battle to clear his name.
But he still has to deliver on promises to spend more on millions of poor South Africans while reassuring investors who worry he could steer the economy to the left.
ANC supporters have become increasingly disillusioned with corruption scandals and the power struggles that saw Mbeki pushed out of office.