Zuma innocent until proven guilty - ANC

Cape Town - The African National Congress called on South Africans to allow the prosecution of former president Jacob Zuma to unfold unhindered, saying he is innocent until proven guilty.

National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams on Friday announced that the NPA will go ahead with the prosecution of Zuma on 16 charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering.

It brings to an end a nine-year battle to have the charges reinstated, after they were "irrationally" dropped by former NDPP Mokotedi Mpshe in 2009.

READ: NPA to prosecute former president Jacob Zuma

It brings to an end a nine-year battle to have Zuma prosecuted after charges against him were "irrationally" dropped by former NDPP Mokotedi Mpshe in 2009.

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule said on Friday that the party had "noted" the decision, and called on South Africans to presume all, including Zuma, equal before the law.

"The ANC reaffirms its confidence in our country’s criminal justice system and our respect for the independence of the judiciary. We equally affirm our commitment to the constitutionally enshrined principle of equality of all before the law.

"Accordingly, we call on South Africans at large to afford the NPA space to conduct its work unhindered, we continue to assert the inalienable right of all in our country, including Comrade Jacob Zuma, to be presumed innocent until and if proven guilty."

Abrahams said he had notified Zuma of his decision earlier on Friday.

The charges against Zuma relate to 783 questionable payments he allegedly received in connection with the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal, which was first flagged in 1999.

'Zuma must pay his fees'

Meanwhile, opposition parties have welcomed the decision, with some calling for an inquiry into Abrahams's fitness to hold office.

"This is a great day for the DA," leader Mmusi Maimane tweeted immediately after Abrahams's announcement.

"We have pursued this case and now justice shall be served on Mr Zuma. He will have what he has always wanted. His day in court. Accountability may take a while but should not escape any individual."

Maimane added that they had to now ensure that the State did not continue to fund Zuma’s legal bid.

"He has already spent R15.3m, now we need to stop the payment and ensure that no more money is spent on him personally. Zuma must now pay."

'No one is above the law'

Maimane thanked all of the legal teams who had waged "lawfare" over the years.

"Their effort and dedication has defeated Zuma’s endless delay tactics," he said in a statement.

After a nine-year fight in court, his party was now ready for accountability to start.

The Economic Freedom Fighters and the Inkatha Freedom Party also welcomed the decision on Friday.

"It is important to state that no one, even former presidents, is above the law," EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said on Friday.

"The principle of equality before the law means we must all be equally held accountable for the deeds deemed illegal, regardless of our social and political standing."

The prosecution of Zuma would send a strong message to "all kleptomaniacs within and outside the government" that they could "no longer loot the State" without consequences, Ndlozi said.

Abrahams must be probed

The decision to proceed with charges of corruption against Zuma, is long overdue, but very welcome, said IFP chief whip Narend Singh.

"The IFP has always contended that Jacob Zuma must have his day in court, and views in a very serious light the obstruction that has been encountered, particularly at the hand of NPA, who should have been above and beyond reproach in prosecuting criminal activity without fear, favour or prejudice.

"The decision by Shaun Abrahams to prosecute Jacob Zuma only now, is in itself a damning indictment on the state of capture of the NPA under the Zuma presidency."

The IFP supported calls for a judicial commission of inquiry into the fitness of Abrahams and all prosecutors involved in the matter.

"As far as we are concerned, this was an abuse of the rule of law and constitutes obstruction of justice and criminality," Singh said.

'The chickens have come home to roost'

The United Democratic Movement and the Freedom Front Plus joined the chorus as well on Friday.

"The chickens have come home to roost! After keeping the nation in suspense for nine years, Mr Shaun Abrahams has finally manned up and has done what should have been done years ago," UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said.

The ANC should hang its head in shame, given the Zuma administration’s distractions, he continued.

He added that Zuma should be sued for the R15.3m of taxpayers' money that he had "squandered" on legal fees defending the case.

FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said: "Zuma said he wanted his day in court to prove his innocence, and now he gets the chance to do it."

While it was the correct decision, it was a pity it took almost ten years and millions of rands to reach this point, he said.

He said his party was also of the view that Abrahams was not suitable for the job of NDPP, and should be replaced as soon as possible.