Judge throws out charges against Zuma

A South African judge on Wednesday threw out corruption charges against former Deputy President Jacob Zuma, boosting the popular politician’s bid to succeed President Thabo Mbeki.

High Court Judge Herbert Msimang said the state’s case against Zuma ”

went from one disaster to another” and had failed to follow proper guidelines.

“There were clear guidelines which should have informed their decision to proceed. They ignored those guidelines at their own peril,” Msimang said.

The judge’s ruling stopped short of completely dismissing the case, however, leaving open the possibility that state prosecutors could refile charges at a later date.

Hundreds of Zuma supporters gathered outside the courthouse broke out in cheers and dancing on news of the ruling, which was seen as a major political boost for Zuma who has made little secret of his hopes to succeed Mbeki in 2009.

Zuma, 64, was fired from his job as South Africa’s deputy president last year after a judge found he had a “generally corrupt” relationship with his financial advisor Schabir Shaik.

Prosecutors later filed charges against Zuma himself, accusing him of receiving bribes from a French arms company in connection with a controversial arms deal.

The judge equally threw out charges against the French company, Thint, which was also in the dock in Pietermaritzburg.

Zuma has denied any wrong-doing and called the charges part of a political conspiracy to thwart his path to the presidency.

While the judge’s ruling was a significant victory for Zuma’s legal team, it also means that the case will continue to dog him as prosecutors mull their options on refiling charges.

Zuma has made little secret that he considers himself as a candidate to succeed Mbeki, a decision which will be made when the ruling African National Congress meets to elect a new leader in December 2007. — Reuter