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Vol 46 No 21

Published 21st October 2005

South Africa

South Africa: If Zuma walks free

The political and economic consequences of an acquittal for Jacob Zuma would reverberate across Africa

South Africans will have to wait nine months for the political trial of the century, when Jacob Zuma's trial for corruption starts in the Durban High Court in July 2006. The ruling African National Congress is divided between supporters of President Thabo Mbeki and those of the deputy President he sacked. Professional politicians and commentators look at all coming campaigns, elections and policy arguments through the Mbeki-Zuma prism. Zuma's business advisor, Schabir Shaik, was convicted at a trial in which Judge Hilary Squires found he had a 'generally corrupt' relationship with Zuma. Yet for Zuma, an acquittal is more than possible. State prosecutors could become snarled in procedural points about the way their evidence was gathered and the admissibility of key documents. Some suggest that, for both political and legal reasons, efforts may be made to negotiate a plea bargain with Zuma, under which the charges are dropped and he agrees not to stand for the ANC presidency. Both camps fiercely deny such talk.

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