S Africa court rejects ex-Zuma aide graft appeal

Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s former deputy president, was dealt a setback Monday when the Supreme Court of Appeals dismissed an attempt to overturn fraud and corruption convictions against his former financial adviser.

The appeals court dismissed businessman Schabir Shaik’s bid to reverse his conviction last May in part for attempting to secure a bribe for Mr Zuma from French arms company Thint in exchange for political protection.

The court in Bloemfontein upheld both corruption convictions as well as his fraud charge and left unaltered his 15-year prison sentence.

The failed appeal makes it more likely the state will press charges against Mr Zuma once more. A corruption case against him was struck off the roll in the Pietermaritzburg High Court in September after the presiding judge refused to grant the National Prosecuting Authority more time to prepare a case.

“Today’s decision is a setback” for Mr Zuma, said Aubrey Matshiqi, a political analyst with the Centre for Policy Studies in Johannesburg. If prosecutors do decide to charge the ruling ANC’s deputy president, it could hamper his unofficial bid for the party presidency that becomes vacant in December next year, when state president Thabo Mbeki’s term as party president comes to an end.

The next national presidential election is due in 2009.

“There is a possibility that at the point the NPA decides to reinstate charges, that point might be politically inopportune for Zuma. The ANC’s internal processes start in May with the leadership nominations. He wouldn’t want to find himself having corruption charges in the middle of those processes,” Mr Matshiqi said.

The NPA said it would consider the Shaik ruling before making any decision to proceed further. On Friday, prosecutors were given leave to appeal against a high court decision that declared illegal searches of Zuma’s properties and those of his lawyers in August last year and disallowed the use of evidence gained in those raids.

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