South African court throws out Zuma's appeal to overturn 783 graft charges related to major arms deal

South African court blocks appeal by Zuma over corruption charges Photograph:( Getty )

Agencies South Africa Jun 24, 2016, 09.22 AM (IST)
In another setback for South African President Jacob Zuma, who has been facing calls for his resignation, his appeal against a court ruling that corruption charges against him be reinstated was turned down. 

The High Court in Pretoria said Zuma and National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams, who had appealed the earlier ruling alongside the president, had no grounds to do so.

In April, the same court had ordered a review of a 2009 decision by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to set aside hundreds of charges against Zuma. 

State prosecutors justified dropping the 783 charges in 2009, saying that tapped phone calls between officials in then-president Thabo Mbeki's administration showed undue interference in the case.

The 2009 decision by the NPA allowed Zuma to run for president the same month.

"We seriously considered whether the appeal would have reasonable prospects of success and came to the conclusion that there are no merits in the arguments," Judge Aubrey Ledwaba told the High Court in Pretoria on Friday. 

"The applications for leave to appeal... are dismissed,” he said. 

It was not immediately clear if Zuma would appeal Friday's ruling, but legal analysts said both he and the NPA could lodge a petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The South African leader has been beset by scandal during his tenure, but has managed to hold on to his post with backing from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. The hundreds of corruption charges relate to a major government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s. Zuma has also been facing criticism for the poor growth rate in South Africa. 

Local elections in August pose a major risk for Zuma's party, which is facing a strong challenge from opponents seeking to capitalise on what they see as the president's missteps.