SA president Jacob Zuma charged with 18 crimes of fraud & corruption – not 783

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Photo credit: Michael Wuertenberg

By: Kate Wilkinson, Africa Cheeck 

“A decade of President Jacob Zuma’s leadership has seen Africa’s oldest liberation movement become a caricature of corruption and factionalism,” the executive director of the Public Affairs Research Institute, Ivor Chipkin, wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times.

This weekend, the country’s ruling party, the African National Congress, will elect a new party president. That person will become president of the country if the party secures a victory in the next national elections in 2019.

The accusations against Zuma are many and include improper relations with powerful familiesmisuse of public funds and tax-evasion. But one often repeated claim is incorrect.

“President Zuma had more than 700 charges of fraud and corruption pending against him,” Chipkin wrote.

It’s a number which has been cited by opposition partiescolumnists and academic journal articles throughout the years.

But the claim is wrong, as News24 editor Adriaan Basson‏ pointed out in October this year.

Zuma and two other accused were charged with 18 crimes on 28 December 2007.

The charges included 12 counts of fraud, 4 counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and one count of racketeering. The charges were dropped in 2009, but may be reinstated soon.

Zuma has until 31 January 2018 to submit arguments to the National Prosecuting Authority on why he should not be prosecuted for corruption.

783 *payments* not charges

So where did the figure of 783 come from?

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority hired auditing firm KPMG to conduct a forensic accounting investigation before the start of the trial of Zuma’s financial advisor, Schabir Shaik. Shaik was convicted on fraud and corruption charges in 2005.

The scope of the KPMG investigation was then widened to include a number of other topics, including a detailed analysis of Zuma’s finances, cash flow and financial position.

The investigation noted that “Zuma experienced financial difficulty from as early as January 1995”. He did not have the funds to settle his debts or meet his financial obligations which lead him to rely on others to do so.

KPMG identified 783 payments made to and on behalf of Zuma by Shaik and his Nkobi group between 1995 and 2006. The payments totalled R4,072,499.85.

The gist? Zuma received 783 payments according to a forensic investigation and was charged with 18 crimes.

*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.