PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Taped phone conversations and documents about former corruption charges against South Africa’s president were released Thursday to the opposition party, reviving a case that has plagued the leader since before he took office.
Conversations on the recordings were cited as a reason to drop fraud and corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma before he became president in 2009. The prosecuting authority at that time said the conversations showed there was a political conspiracy against Zuma, but the actual recordings were never made public.
Zuma had applied to prevent the tapes from being released while the opposition Democratic Alliance party sought access to them. The Supreme Court of Appeals ordered the release of the materials last week.
Opposition leader Helen Zille said these records were critical because they reveal so much, and will be reviewed to see if the charges were legitimately dropped.
“This is a very important step in our commitment to defend the constitution and the independence of every part of our criminal justice system,” Zille said outside of the court in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.
She held a white package high in the air to the cheers of dozens of Democratic Alliance members wearing blue T-shirts with the red DA symbol. Also present were supporters of another opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters. Zille pointed to the words “Tamper Evidence Security Bag,” which were written on the envelope in black ink.
“We are going to be using this as evidence in a review application on the withdrawal of over 700 counts relating to corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering that were drawn against the president before he became the president in 2009,” she added.
Prosecutors said the taped conversations showed there was a political conspiracy against Zuma.
Zuma, then deputy president, was accused of accepting bribes to thwart an investigation into a French arms company involved in a weapons deal in the late 1990s. The conversations were allegedly between prosecutors and a head of a crime-fighting unit.
The president’s lawyers had argued the opposition party would use the tapes for political gain. However, Zuma welcomed their release on Thursday, saying in a statement that they should include materials that “do not breach the confidentiality” between the president and the National Prosecuting Authority.
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