African business, politics and lifestyle
What next for Jacob Zuma?
A court ruling that effectively reinstates corruption charges against African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma could hardly have come at a worse moment for him and the party that has dominated South Africa since the end of apartheid.
There appears little doubt that Zuma will be the party’s presidential candidate ahead of elections expected around April, but the ANC now faces its toughest electoral test yet with hefty graft charges hanging over its man.
Prosecutors say the ruling means Zuma remains charged with corruption, fraud and money laundering. This might severely hurt his image, internationally and at home, during a battle to fend off a challenge from the new party of ANC dissidents called COPE. The ANC is still expected to win, but maybe without such a sweeping parliamentary majority to be able to shape laws as it wishes.
The news brought renewed concerns of political instability and the rand fell to a one-month low.
Zuma’s lawyers may appeal to the Constitutional Court, the highest in the country, which will drag out the case further. Zuma has said before he will only step down as president if found guilty of the corruption and fraud charges.
Prosecutors and Zuma may try to secure a deal that will end the long-running saga over charges that Zuma’s supporters see as politically motivated.
A settlement may suit Zuma if it looks as though he will face new charges and a trial that will either coincide with the election, or punctuate the first years of his presidency.
The appeals court ruling is good news for former President Thabo Mbeki, helping to repair his image after being ousted by the ANC in September, following the high court judgement that suggested he interfered to secure charges against Zuma. He cannot be expected to return to government, however.
What should Zuma and the ANC do next? Even if no charges are brought by then, would the case be likely to have an impact on the elections? Would COPE stand to benefit?