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South Africa's Zuma seeks case dismissal as backers rally PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 August 2008

Reuters, Johannesburg- Jacob Zuma, the leader of South Africa's ruling ANC, goes to court on Monday in an attempt to win the dismissal of a corruption case that could wreck his chances of becoming the nation's president next year.

Thousands of supporters will rally in Pietermaritzburg when Zuma appears at a hearing in the city's high court, hoping to stop state prosecutors putting him on trial later this year.

The case is likely to decide whether the African National Congress leader will succeed Thabo Mbeki as South African president next year.

Zuma is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from French arms firm Thint and faces charges of corruption, fraud, money-laundering and racketeering. He denies the charges and says he will step down if convicted.

Late on Sunday, crowds gathered across the road from Pietermaritzburg High Court, chanting "Who told you that Zuma is guilty?" Some wore hats bearing the phrase "Jacob Zuma for South Africa President" and others carried placards that said "All shall be equal before the law".

Pietermaritzburg's central business district is expected to come to a standstill when Zuma appears in court, and many streets in the city centre have been barricaded.

ANC members, supporters from its powerful trade union ally COSATU and the Communist Party are all expected to protest Zuma's innocence outside the court during the hearing.


Zuma defeated Mbeki for the ANC leadership in December, amid infighting sparked by Mbeki's firing of Zuma as national deputy president in 2005, after he was implicated in a corruption case in which his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik was convicted.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) re-charged Zuma with corruption shortly after he took over the helm of the ANC, after earlier charges were dismissed for technical reasons.

His supporters say the case is a conspiracy by Mbeki loyalists aimed at derailing Zuma's political ambitions.

"Throughout the investigation and prosecution of this case the ANC President has had his rights repeatedly violated by institutions of state," the ANC said in a statement.

The ANC Youth League called on Mbeki on Sunday to step down to allow for an early election.

A protracted trial could mean Zuma's case would overlap with general elections in 2009, increasing the country's political instability.

His strong links to trade unions and the left have already worried investors, who prefer Mbeki's pro-business tilt.

While the populist Zuma has publicly said he is ready to prove his innocence and go on trial, he has fought hard to squash the case before it reaches a courtroom.

He was dealt a blow on Thursday when the Constitutional Court upheld a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeals that raids on Zuma and his lawyer were valid and that thousands of documents seized could be used against him in a trial.

The Pietermaritzburg hearing is expected to finish on Tuesday. If Zuma loses the appeal, he is likely to ask the Supreme Court to have the corruption case dismissed.

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