Bishops say Zuma charges show South Africa’s justice works

South Africa’s bishops say the decision to issue former President Jacob Zuma with a summons to court shows the “wheels of justice are still turning” in the country.

No-one is above the law, they say.

The former South African President faces 16 counts of corruption relating to a multibillion-rand arms deal arranged when he was deputy president.

The charges detail 783 instances of wrongdoing in a 30 billion rand (NZ$3,411,600,000) deal with a French arms company.

Although he was originally charged with corruption, fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in late 2007, the charges were set aside in 2009.

This enabled Zuma to run for president in the 2009 elections.

The charges were reinstated in 2016.

Speaking for the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop William Slattery said: “The fact that the former state president will now have his day in court to answer before the nation for his decisions while in power will certainly send a well-needed clanging alarm call to many departments and offices of political administration.”

Zuma, who was forced from office in February, denies any wrongdoing and is challenging the decision to prosecute the case.

After the hearing, he told thousands of supporters: “I can’t believe all the lies that are said about me. I am innocent until proven guilty.”

Allegations of corruption have been a feature of Zuma’s time in office, but he has consistently denied any wrong-doing.

Following his resignation as president of South Africa on 14 February, the bishops said Zuma’s presidency had fostered corruption and dereliction of duty at all levels of government.

“The fact [he] has been allowed to hold on to the highest position in the land, despite long-standing and overwhelming evidence of his unfitness for office, has done immense harm to our country’s international reputation, to its economy and, especially, to its poorest and most vulnerable citizens,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference says.

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