Ahead of the April 22 national elections, South Africaâ€™s ANC presidential candidate Jacob Zuma has managed to escape the corruption charges that have plagued him for the last few years.
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The charges first came to light when the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) began an investigation into a controversial arms deal, entered into by the ANC led government with European arms manufacturers. Zuma and ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni were both investigated for corruption in connection with tenders issued to some of these arms manufacturers. Yengeni was found guilty of corruption and sent to prison, whereas Zuma escaped jail. The then NPA head, Bulelani Ngcuka stated that “…that there was prima facie evidence of corruption, but insufficient to win the [Zuma] case in courtâ€.Â The NPA then went for Zumaâ€™s financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, and when tried, the man was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison.Â
The NPA, based on the evidence gathered against Schabir Shaik, decided to try Zuma for corruption. The trial dragged on, thanks to the legal maneuverings between Zumaâ€™s defense and the prosecution. It was eventually struck of the High Courtâ€™s roll, but the NPA still had the right to re-charge Zuma.Â
While the trial continued to hang over Zumaâ€™s head, the elections loomed ever closer, casting a shadow on Zumaâ€™s candidacy. The party was set on putting him forward as its electoral candidate.Â
On December 28, 2008, four months away from the national elections, the investigative arm of the NPA, the Scorpions, finally had enough evidence to re-charge Zuma. They served him with an indictment to appear in the High Court on various counts of fraud, racketeering, corruption and money laundering.Â
The trial seemed to be gathering momentum as the election neared, until incriminating tape recordings of Ngcuka and Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy surfaced. The recordings insinuated that Ngcuka and McCarthy conspired to have the timing of the trial occur in such a way that they could cause the most political damage to Zuma.Â
When the information about the tapes came to light, Chief Prosecutor Mokotedi Mpshe stated, “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.”
On April 6, the NPA, which had now been compromised, dropped all charges against the ANC president.Â
Zuma is now a free man, slated to be the next president of South Africa. However, the tumultuous in-fighting in the ruling party, as well as its leaderâ€™s controversial rape and corruption trials, have resulted in the fracturing of the party, and the formation of a new splinter party, the Congress of the People. Because of this, the April 22 poll is going to be the most closely watched since the first democratic elections in 1994.