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Zuma dismisses corruption charges as “nothing more than a witch hunt”3 minutes read

Both Zuma and Thales deny any wrongdoing and have applied to the court for a permanent stay of prosecution.

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South African High Court dismisses Zuma’s appeal to delay corruption trial
Former South African President Jacob Zuma looks on in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, on May 20, 2019 during his trial for alledged corruption. Themba Hadebe / POOL / AFP

Former South African president Jacob Zuma said Monday that he was victim of a “witch hunt” over corruption charges as lawyers argued in court that he could not expect a fair trial.

Zuma, who was forced to resign by the ruling ANC party last year, has been charged with 16 counts of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a multi-million-dollar arms deal dating back to before he took office in 2009.

Zuma, 77, is accused of taking bribes from French defence company Thales during his time as a provincial economy minister and later as deputy president of the African National Congress (ANC) in the 1990s.

He allegedly pocketed around four million rand ($280,000, 250,000 euros) from 783 payments handled by Schabir Shaik, a businessman who acted as his financial adviser.

The charges were first brought against Zuma in 2005. They were dropped by prosecutors in 2009, shortly before he became president, and reinstated in 2016.

“My rights have been flagrantly violated,” Zuma told supporters gathered outside the court in Pietermaritzburg. “If this trial continues, it will be nothing more than a witch hunt.”

Zuma’s legal counsel, Muzi Sikhakhane told the court that the case was at the “intersection of law and politics” and that Zuma faced “mob justice” due to prejudice against him.

Sikhakhane argued that Zuma’s constitutional right to a prompt trial had been “violated to the point where we could say ‘a fair trial can never happen’.”

He accused prosecutors of being “over-zealous” and asked: “Does he get stripped of human dignity because he is Mr. Zuma?”

Both Zuma and Thales deny any wrongdoing and have applied to the court for a permanent stay of prosecution.

‘Politics is not good’ –  

“Bearing in mind the very long delay of this procedure -through no fault of Thales at all -together with a range of factors beyond its control, Thales believes it cannot obtain a fair trial,” the company said in a press statement.

“Thales reiterates that it has no knowledge of any transgressions having been committed by any of its employees.”

Outside the Pietermartizburg high court, Zuma’s supporters held a rally for the former president.

Supporters of former President Jacob Zuma wait for him to appear outside the High Court where he faces corruption charges.

“Politics is not good. Some people, they don’t like Zuma -that’s why they took him to court,” Vukhani Khumalo told reporters, saying court proceedings against him should be scrapped.

Zuma sat in court wearing a suit and red tie and looking occasionally at papers in front of him.

A separate judicial enquiry into alleged state corruption during Zuma’s time as president is under way in Johannesburg.

His successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who held on to power when the ANC won national elections with a reduced majority earlier this month, has vowed to root out corruption in the government and the party as he tries to attract investment and revive the economy.

The ANC’s reputation suffered under Zuma’s leadership, and Ramaphosa still faces resistance to his reform agenda, especially from Zuma allies still holding senior positions in the party and government.

The main opposition, Democratic Alliance party fought a long battle to have the corruption charged reinstated, with Zuma’s lawyers fighting to prevent him going on trial.

Zuma, who is thought to have little personal wealth, was ordered by a court last year to pay back state funds and cover his own costs in the case, leaving him with large legal bills.

The hearing is set to last until Friday but the court will not sit on Wednesday.

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Politics

Nigeria’s coalition of civil society groups gives government 14-day protest ultimatum

The group says if ALL demands are not met within 14 days, it will mobilise Nigerians to occupy the NHRC Commission offices

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Sowore: Nigeria's civil society coalition gives government 14-day protest ultimatum
Cross-section of attendees at the world press conference. Photo credit: Sumner Shagari Sambo

A Coalition of Civil Society Groups in Nigeria, comprising the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Enough is Enough (EiE) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), has held a world press conference today in Abuja tabling its demands and calling for response to growing human rights abuse cases in the country.

The five demands include:

  • President Muhammadu Buhari to show accountability as Commander In Chief and address the nation on his commitment to the rule of law and human rights
  • The release of all illegally detained persons by the Department of State Service (DSS) as reviewed by Amnesty International, Premium Times and Punch newspaper in recent times
  • That the government obeys all pending court orders
  • An investigation of the officer who violated protocols and circumstances leading to the re-arrest of #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore
  • Unconditional release of Omoyele Sowore

The group says if ALL demands are not met within 14 days, it will mobilise Nigerians to occupy the National Human Rights Commission offices across the country as it is legally mandated to protect Nigerians and also report to Presidency.

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Politics

Togo announces presidential election for February next year

Gnassingbe has been in power for nearly 15 years since succeeding his father Eyadema Gnassingbe

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Togo announces presidential election for February next year
Togo's incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

Togo will hold elections in February next year, when incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe is expected to seek a fourth term in office.

A government decree published late Thursday after a cabinet meeting said the presidential election will be held on February 22 with a second-round organised if no candidate gets a clear majority.

Gnassingbe has been in power for nearly 15 years since succeeding his father Eyadema Gnassingbe, who led the country with an iron fist for 38 years.

The decree said for the first time Togo citizens living abroad will be able to cast their votes at embassies in the countries where they are living.

Election campaigning will start on February 6 and end February 20.

Opposition parties and civil society leaders, including Togo’s bishops, last month called for the election to be suspended to allow for a reorganisation of the constitutional court, the electoral register and the national electoral commission.

In early May, the Togolese deputies voted a constitutional amendment allowing Gnassingbe to run again in 2020 and 2025, but also to benefit from immunity for life “for acts done during presidential terms”.

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Senator Orji Uzor Kalu bags 12 years imprisonment

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Senator Orji Uzor Kalu bags 12 years imprisonment
(file photo)

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday sentenced Senator Orji Uzor Kalu to 12 years in prison for fraud.

Orji Kalu, a serving senator representing Abia North and former governor of Abia State, was handed a 12-year jail sentence by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court Lagos for N7.65 billion fraud.

Kalu was tried alongside Slok Nigeria Limited, a company he chairs and Mr Udeh Udeogu who was Director of Finance and Accounts of the state house at the time Kalu was governor of Abia State.

The convicts were accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of conspiring to divert and diverting over N7billion state fund in an amended 39-count charge.

The EFCC alleged in one of the counts that Senator Kalu did procure a company solely owned by him and members of his family – Slok Nigeria Limited – to retain in its account, an aggregate sum of N7,197,871,208.7 on his behalf.

The prosecution had argued that the N7.1 billion formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia State Government and which was laundered into several bank drafts before they were paid into Slok Nigeria’s account.

Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs SAN, further argued that such action was in violation of  Section 17(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, and the defendant was liable to be punished under Section 16 of the same Act.

Kalu and the other defendants were also accused of receiving the sum of N460 million allegedly pilfered from the Abia State Government treasury between July and December 2002.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

While the matter lasted in court, the prosecution called a total of 19 witnesses and the defendants testified on their own behalf. 

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