South Africa’s Jacob Zuma says he has been “vindicated” after prosecutors dropped corruption charges against him and he this morning vowed to focus on leading the country after elections later this month.
Zuma said an 8-year battle by prosecutors to convict him was “political and manipulative” and any suggestion that a “cloud” would hang over him because the case was dismissed on a technicality was a media fiction, Reuters adds.
“There never was a case against me … I have been vindicated,” Zuma, dressed in a pin-stripe black suit and joking with reporters, told a news conference in Durban broadcast live on local television.
“There is no cloud. There has never been a cloud … At the moment we have a country to run.”
Zuma’s ANC party is widely expected to win an April 22 election and choose him as president of Africa’s biggest economic power, although it faces an unprecedented challenge from the new Congress of the People (COPE) party, which hopes to attract voters uneasy with the ANC’s record on corruption.
A judge at a Durban High Court on Tuesday formally endorsed a decision by prosecutors to drop the case against Zuma after they uncovered “abuses” of the legal process by allies of former president Thabo Mbeki, Zuma’s arch foe.
The move gives Zuma a big boost ahead of the election and ends a legal battle that raised doubts over his ability to govern, but analysts and the opposition say suspicion will continue to dog him because the case was never settled in court.
Zuma, whose ANC party ousted Mbeki as president last year, said he would not seek revenge against his political enemies but would concentrate on tackling issues such as poverty, crime and HIV/AIDS.
“Retribution will not take us anywhere,” he said. “Now is the time for us to focus on improving people’s lives.”
The opposition Democratic Alliance party said prosecutors had been “hopelessly compromised” and filed an application with a high court for a judicial review into the decision.
Zuma had faced charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering in relation to the largest government arms deal in post-apartheid South Africa.
The case has been closely followed by investors looking for political stability and has raised concerns about the independence of South Africa’s judiciary.
Zuma said the case showed state institutions such as parliament needed to be strengthened to avoid abuse of power.
“Something clearly needs to be done to make them more effective in their oversight roles,” he said.