S Africa ex-President Zuma sues Ramaphosa ahead of key party vote


President Cyril Ramaphosa rejects the private prosecution, says Zuma is abusing legal processes.

South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma has charged current President Cyril Ramaphosa in a private prosecution, a move Ramaphosa rejects as an “abuse of legal processes”.

This comes as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) begins its national elective conference on Friday to decide whether Ramaphosa will stand for president in South Africa’s next election in 2024. Ramaphosa has led the ANC since he took over from Zuma in 2017.

Zuma initiated the proceedings on Thursday, accusing Ramaphosa of being an alleged “accessory” in the leaking of a confidential medical document about him to the media.

The case is linked to Zuma’s long-running but so far unsuccessful campaign to remove prosecutor Billy Downer, who is pursuing the ex-president on corruption charges related to a 1990s arms deal.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa has been charged in a private prosecution with the criminal offence of being accessory after the fact in the crimes committed by among others Advocate Downer namely, breaching the provisions of the [National Prosecuting Authority] NPA Act,” the Jacob Zuma Foundation said in a statement.

“The serious crimes for which Mr Ramaphosa has been charged with in a court of law carry the sentence of 15 years in prison,” it added.

In response, the presidency issued a statement on Friday saying: “President Cyril Ramaphosa rejects with the utmost contempt Mr. Jacob Zuma’s abuse of legal processes and perversion of the ‘nolle prosequi’ (private prosecution) provision.”

“Mr. Zuma charges that President Ramaphosa is an ‘accessory after the fact’ in a criminal offence alleged against Advocate William Downer – the allegation is that Advocate Downer improperly shared information, in terms of the NPA Act.”

“Mr Zuma’s charges are based on an accusation that President Ramaphosa failed to act after Mr. Zuma complained about improper conduct by Advocates Downer and Breitenbach. These charges are completely spurious and unfounded,” it later added.


Seeking re-election

ANC delegates are converging in Johannesburg from Friday until Tuesday next week to pick their candidate for leader of the ruling party – historically the ticket that decides who leads the country, as the ANC has won every national election since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Ramaphosa is seeking a second term amid widespread criticism over a scandal involving a burglary that took place on his private farm in 2020. Last month a report by a panel of experts found preliminary evidence he may have violated the constitution over a stash of foreign currency hidden at his property.

Ramaphosa has denied any wrongdoing, but the report led to a vote in parliament this week on whether to begin impeachment proceedings against him. The president won with 214 votes in his favour to 148 against.

So far the ANC’s response has overwhelmingly been to rally around Ramaphosa and resist calls by opposition politicians for him to quit. Many predict he will win re-election at the party conference. However, if he loses, it could open the door to a rival ANC faction allied with Zuma.

Much of Ramaphosa’s political capital derives from the fact that his rivals are loosely allied to Zuma, accused of siphoning off vast public funds into the pockets of three Indian businessman during his tenure between 2009 and 2018 – charges he denies.

They include ex-Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, whom Ramaphosa removed from cabinet in June last year over allegations of corruption concerning COVID-19-related contracts to a communications company controlled by former associates. Mkhize denies wrongdoing.

Ramaphosa leads the race so far, with 2,037 votes from nearly 4,000 ANC branches, against 916 for Mkhize.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a cabinet minister and the ex-wife of Jacob Zuma, who narrowly lost to Ramaphosa at the last ANC convention; and Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu have not qualified to be on the ballot but could still do so if they get a quarter of votes on the floor.



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