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S. Africa's New ANC Leader to Face Charges


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm John Ydstie, sitting in for Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Criminal charges await the man slated to become the next president of South Africa. The country's top prosecutor says he has enough evidence to charge Jacob Zuma with corruption. Yesterday's announcement came just two days after Zuma ousted current President Thabo Mbeki as leader of the African National Congress. As the head of the ANC, Zuma is in line to take over as South Africa's president when Mbeki steps down in early 2009.

We go now to NPR's Charlayne Hunter-Gault who has been following the story. Hello.


MONTAGNE: What is known, at this point in time, about those charges against Jacob Zuma?

HUNTER-GAULT: Well, as you know, Renee, this is not a new situation. Once, Jacob Zuma's business adviser, Schabir Shaik, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for paying a bribe to Zuma. The National Prosecuting Authority began looking at Zuma. And initially, they said they didn't have enough evidence to convict him or to charge him because there were only two situations that might have been fraudulent.

But now, they have found more evidence that totals the equivalent U.S. $400,000 in today's exchange rate. And as the result of that, they have new charges like income tax evasion and racketeering in addition to corruption and bribery and fraud.

MONTAGNE: And the national prosecutor said that they've got enough to bring charges and, in fact, expects to bring charges. What does Jacob Zuma say to this?

HUNTER-GAULT: Well, Jacob Zuma made the rounds of the media yesterday and today. He defended his relationship with Schabir Shaik, calling him a family friend and a longtime colleague, but he refused to comment on the charges. He said he'd cross that bridge when he comes to it.

But I have talked to people, high up in the Zuma camp, who say that he was expecting this. And my sense of what they were saying to me was that he was prepared to defend it.

MONTAGNE: Charlayne, this would seem to set South Africa after, you know, years of calm under Nelson Mandela and then Thabo Mbeki on a period of political turmoil.

HUNTER-GAULT: Well, I think the African National Congress is aware of the potential disruption if a case is brought against this new president. In line to succeed him, in the event that he gets entangled in what is expected to be a very long trial, is the deputy president. So there is a very competent stand-in, but there would indeed be a lot of turmoil because a lot of the attention will be focused on the trial instead of the - conducting the affairs of the party as well as government.

MONTAGNE: Charlayne, thanks very much.

HUNTER-GAULT: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Charlayne Hunter-Gault, speaking to us from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Zuma's victory could set up two opposing centers of power: one in the South African government and one in the ANC. You can read more about the rift and the history of the African National Congress at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault
Charlayne Hunter-Gault recently left her post as CNN's Johannesburg bureau chief and correspondent, which she had held since 1999, to pursue independent projects. Before joining CNN, she worked from Johannesburg as the chief correspondent in Africa for NPR from 1997 to 1999.