Jacob Zuma's Dropped Corruption Charges Need to be Re-examined
Two weeks before the election for South Africa's new president, a controversial decision to drop corruption charges against the most likely candidate to win, Jacob Zuma, was made.
This past weekend in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) took the parliamentary elections by storm, winning 264 seats within the 400-member parliament. Although the ANC did not win a desired two-thirds majority, they were able to retain their political dominance, which they have held since the first democratic elections in 1994.
Most importantly, in South Africa, the parliamentary elects the president. Jacob Zuma, the party leader of the ANC, is almost certain to be inaugurated as the new president of South Africa on May 6 of this year.
The ANC is most notably known for its efforts in helping end apartheid under the leadership of Nelson Mandela. The ANC has retained much of its popularity since the end of apartheid rule, with Zuma as the present party leader. Zuma has many dedicated supporters, especially most recently with a public endorsement from the celebrated Nelson Mandela.
Long held controversy has been brewing about Zuma's rise to presidency in the past months that range from critics' speculations of the politician being an unfit leader to run the country to accusations of rape and corruption. Accusations of corruption and rape have periodically been brought to the surface involving the anticipated president.
Although acquitted, Zuma has had a history of being charged with rape in 2005. Zuma has also been accused of corruption and fraud. The party leader was accused of accepting bribes to stop an investigation into allegations of corruption in a multi-billion dollar arms deal during the 90's. Zuma's financial advisor, Schabir Shaik was found guilty of corruption in relation with the arms deal in 2005. Zuma was slated to go on trial in August of this year.
Conveniently, this month, only weeks before the presidential election, all charges of corruption against Zuma were dropped. According to Voice of America, the official radio and television broadcasting service of the United States federal government, the charges were abruptly dropped citing a taped conversation between an NPA investigator and a source that showed that there had been political interference in the Zuma case.
Understandably, many critics are highly suspicious of the timing of the dropped charges. According to South African media outlets, opposition parties have objected and are urging for the case against Zuma to continue and that an investigation into the alleged 'political interference' should be launched.
The Democratic Alliance, a rising political party gaining momentum in the country, has petitioned a high court to review the decision.
Patricial de Lille, leader of another rising party in South Africa, the Independent Democrats party, said the "political interference" allegation "should be investigated separately but the charges against Zuma should not be dropped."
Zuma's supporters argue that the initial corruption charges were a deliberate scheme to ruin his political career. After being dismissed of the charges, Zuma said the dropped charges proved his innocence.
One outspoken critic of the dismissal of charges against Zuma, Phillip Dexter of the Congress of the People (another party in South Africa) said, "What there possibly is, is evidence of another conspiracy. And that's the conspiracy to stop the charges being brought against Jacob Zuma."
South Africa is undoubtedly Africa's most influential country. Most importantly, South Africa is a model for democracy for neighboring African countries. Yet it is often forgotten that the country's democracy is only 15 years old, with the first democratic elections taking place in 1994. Although seen as a model for other countries, it must be remembered that South Africa is still in the early stages of setting up the foundations for a democratic government.
More than anything, South Africa is in need of a leader free of a corrupt and questionable background. If Zuma's corruption charges remain unaddressed the country will be set up for a man in power that sounds all too familiar to the near dictatorships and morally bankrupt leaders that many of the countries of Africa have been painfully colored with.
The countries of Africa have become notorious for corrupt leaders. According to The British Broadcasting Corporation, of the 20 countries perceived as most corrupt, 12 are African countries. South Africa is at a dangerous turning point. Electing a leader with a possible history of corruption and a self-interested agenda would be a huge step backwards for a country that hopes to be a model for democracy for other African countries, let alone it's own people.
To counteract the corrupt leaders that the countries of Africa have become notorious for, elected leaders must be put to a higher standard. The first step is to hold leaders accountable for their actions before they can become elected to a leadership position. If there is one position of power that South Africa needs to carefully address, it is the presidency. Zuma's case cannot be swept under the rug quietly. If Zuma is innocent, as he has so vehemently declared, he should be the first person to encourage a full-fledged investigation into his corruption charges.