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Former South African President Zuma withdraws from graft inquiry3 minutes read

The ex-president was due to give the last of his evidence on Friday but had complained

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Former South African President Zuma withdraws from graft inquiry
Former South African president Jacob Zuma. (Photo by MIKE HUTCHINGS / POOL / AFP)

Former South African president Jacob Zuma on Friday withdrew from testifying to an inquiry into corruption during his rule, complaining of bias, before later agreeing to return at a future date.

In the corruption scandal popularly referred to as “state capture”, Zuma is alleged to have overseen mass looting of state assets during his nine-year tenure.

Zuma on Friday morning pulled out of the inquiry, with his legal team saying their client would no longer participate as he had been “treated as someone who was accused.”

But after behind-the-scenes discussions, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, who is chairing the investigation, announced an agreement had been reached between parties.

“The former president will come back at another time that will be arranged,” Zondo announced. “The discussions have resulted in an agreement.”

Zuma said he was “happy” that a compromise had been reached.

READ: Zuma to testify at South Africa’s graft probe

“No one should have a wrong impression that the raising of the concerns was just done in order to disrupt the processes, these were genuine concerns,” he added.

The ex-president was due to give the last of his evidence on Friday but had complained that earlier questioning was effectively a court cross-examination.

Zuma had dismissed all accusations made against him by previous witnesses to the inquiry.

He replied to many questions at the inquiry by saying he did not remember or was unaware of meetings and conversations that other witnesses had mentioned.

Possible prosecutions –

On Monday, the first day of his testimony, Zuma gave a rambling address saying he was the victim of conspiracies and years of “character assassination”, and accusing foreign intelligence agencies and spies of working against him.

He also said he had received multiple death threats and attempts on his life.

Zuma, 77, was ousted by the ruling ANC party in 2018 and replaced by his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has vowed to clean up the government.

He was not legally summoned to attend the inquiry, but was invited to reply after being implicated in graft by several previous witnesses.

The inquiry is investigating a web of deals involving government officials, the wealthy Gupta business family and state-owned companies.

READ: Ex-South African President Jacob Zuma claims he has been vilified

The Indian-born Gupta brothers — Ajay, Atul and Rajesh — have left South Africa and are now based in Dubai.

One witness, former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene testified that Zuma pushed policies on nuclear power and aviation that were designed to benefit the Gupta family.

“Mr. Zuma and his legal team are in effect asking to be excused from the application of the rules,” the inquiry’s lead lawyer Paul Pretorius said.

“If the questions are detailed and if the questions are difficult… so be it.

“We are not only entitled, but obliged to ask those questions.”

Zuma was forced to set up the commission in January 2018, shortly before he left office, after failing in a legal battle to overturn the instructions of the country’s ethics ombudsman.

It has been holding hearings since last year and is due to complete a report next year that may lead to criminal prosecutions.

Zuma has also been charged with 16 counts of graft linked to a 1990’s arms deal made before he became president.

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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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Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed to avoid questions at Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo

Events kick off with meetings at the Nobel Institute and a large press conference with the Peace Prize winner

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Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed to avoid questions at Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is grappling with challenges just days before the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize arrives in Oslo.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has made it clear he won’t attend any event where he could publicly be asked questions, either by the press or even children, and the committee finds that “highly problematic.”

Olav Njølstad, Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute and secretary for the committee that annually awards the Peace Prize, told Norwegian Broadcasting that the Nobel Institute and the Nobel Committee wishes Abiy Ahmed had said ‘yes’ to meeting Norwegian and international press.

READ: Zaid Aregawi says “we don’t see the peace” in query of Abiy’s Nobel prize win

Ahmed’s decision to avoid any events in which he’d need to answer questions has thus resulted in a highly amputated program for the “Nobel Peace Prize Days” that should begin in Oslo on Monday, December 9.

Events traditionally kick off with meetings at the Nobel Institute with committee members and a large press conference with the Peace Prize winner that’s broadcast live.

For the first time in many years, the Nobel press conference has been cancelled, as have traditional in-depth interviews usually conducted by NRK, the BBC and Al Jazeera.

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