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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Zuma resignation calls rejected
South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma (l) with President Thabo Mbeki
Mbeki (r) says his deputy Zuma (l) should not be judged on the basis of allegations

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has emphatically rejected calls for the resignation or suspension of his deputy, Jacob Zuma, over allegations of involvement in a corrupt arms deal involving billions of dollars.

Mr Mbeki told parliament that public officials could not be expected to relinquish their positions on the basis of allegations.

He said that the government respected the rule of law and due process, and would not take disciplinary action, or any other action, against Mr Zuma.

Mr Zuma is alleged to have solicited a $68,000 bribe from a French company which won a lucrative contract in the multi-billion dollar deal to buy weapons for South Africa's army and navy.

Confidence

The National Director of Public Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, decided to drop charges against the deputy president himself, saying there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

Mr Mbeki said he had full confidence in Mr Ngcuka and would not question the public prosecutor's decision.

But the acting Democratic Alliance leader, Joe Seremane, said the allegations against Mr Zuma undermined the moral authority of the presidency.

Mr Zuma leads the government's moral regeneration campaign.

A financial advisor to Mr Zuma appeared in court in August in connection with the multi-billion dollar arms corruption scandal.

Enemy agents

But businessman Schabir Shaik came out fighting after his court appearance in the port city of Durban on charges of corruption, fraud and money-laundering.

"We are dealing with enemy agents within our government," he said, promising to reveal all he knew to prove his innocence.

Some observers say the allegations against Mr Zuma and his aide are politically motivated, ahead of next year's general election.

Mr Zuma himself is unhappy that the case against him has been dropped.

He says that he has effectively been tried by the media and says he will not now have a chance to clear his name.

The BBC's Mohamed Ali in Cape Town says the corruption allegations will most likely continue to dominate public debate in South Africa for some time.




SEE ALSO:
Case dropped against SA's Zuma
23 Aug 03  |  Africa
SA arms probe 'despicable'
28 Jul 03  |  Africa
Profile: Jacob Zuma
17 Jun 99  |  Africa
Jail term for ANC man
19 Mar 03  |  Africa


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