South Africa's Zuma asks prosecutors to drop graft charges

  • World
  • Thursday, 01 Feb 2018

South African President Jacob Zuma delivers his State of the Nation address at Parliament in Cape Town, June 17, 2014. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham/Pool

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma has provided arguments on why he should not be prosecuted for corruption, the state prosecutor said on Thursday, as pressure mounted for the scandal-plagued leader to step down.

Zuma, who has faced and denied numerous corruption allegations since taking office, submitted documents on Wednesday night to the National Prosecuting Agency (NPA) providing reasons why 783 counts of corruption relating to a 30 billion rand ($2 billion) arms deal arranged in the late 1990s should not be reinstated.

NPA Head Shaun Abrahams "personally received the representations from the legal representatives of Mr Zuma late yesterday evening" and would announce the next course of action later, the NPA's spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku said.

The NPA had extended the deadline to the end of January for Zuma to make his representations before deciding whether to proceed against him.

South Africa's High Court reinstated the graft charges in April 2016 and the Supreme Court upheld that decision in October, rejecting an appeal by Zuma and describing the NPA's decision to set aside the charges as "irrational".

Zuma has faced numerous calls to step-down within the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which has admitted to having discussed removing him as president before the end of his term in mid-2019..

Zuma's ties to the Gupta family -- whose members include a trio of businessmen accused of using their ties to Zuma to amass wealth and influence government policy -- has seen him face mounting calls to step down. The Guptas and Zuma deny any wrongdoing.

Zuma, 75, has seen a reversal of fortune since Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa succeeded him as ANC leader last month. Zuma still retains the support of a faction within the ANC, but no longer holds a top ANC post.

The opposition has called for Zuma to be removed from office before delivering the State of the Nation Address on Feb 8.

South Africa's parliament said Zuma will deliver the speech as planned.

"There are processes going on, every day and every night, and at this point the information we have is that the head of state is President Jacob Zuma," Baleka Mbete, the speaker of parliament, told reporters.

"So, as far as we are concerned that is who is going to deliver the State of the Nation Address until we hear different information."

At last year's speech, far-left opposition lawmakers brawled with orderlies after interrupting the speech and the main opposition party walked out.

(Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg in Johannesburg and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town, Writing by James Macharia, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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