South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and the state prosecutor launched an appeal on Friday against a High Court ruling to reinstate 783 corruption charges against the head of state.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) set aside the charges against Zuma in April 2009, allowing him to run for president that same month, but the High Court this May ordered a review of that decision, terming it “irrational”.
The case has reemerged in the run-up to local government elections in August that should be a stern test for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) as opposition parties gain support on the back of Zuma’s perceived failures and scandals.
Zuma’s office said the High Court made a mistake in saying the National Director of Public Prosecutions was not entitled to terminate a prosecution on the basis of misconduct and abuse of the process.
The NPA’s decision in 2009 was based on phone intercepts presented by Zuma’s legal team that suggested the timing of the charges may have been part of a political plot against Zuma.
The state prosecutor is appealing the ruling on the grounds that the law allowed him the discretion to decide when to lay charges and that the court ruling could dilute the NPA’s powers.
It was not clear how long the appeal process would run.
Should the appeal fail and the charges be reinstated, it would be the latest political setback for Zuma after he was ordered by the Constitutional Court to pay back some of the 240 million rand ($16 million) in state money spent upgrading his private home.
The hundreds of corruption charges relate to a major government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s.