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Last Updated: Monday, 20 June, 2005, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
South Africa's Zuma faces charges
South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma
Zuma was dismissed as deputy president last week
South Africa's former Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who was sacked last week, is to be charged with corruption.

President Thabo Mbeki dismissed Mr Zuma after his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 15 years in jail.

The judge in that case had ruled that Mr Shaik had a "generally corrupt" relationship with Mr Zuma.

The sacking was praised in South Africa and by donor countries as a strong signal against corruption in Africa.

But many supporters of the ruling ANC party have voiced their support for Mr Zuma, who denies any wrongdoing.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced the charges at a news conference.

"We have decided to bring criminal charges against former Deputy President Jacob Zuma, among them two counts of corruption," spokesman Makhosini Nkosi said.

Mr Zuma is expected to appear in court in Durban later this week.

'Deeply significant'

Opposition political parties have welcomed the NPA's announcement.

"Politically this decision is deeply significant, as it will effectively mean that Mr Zuma may now be incapable of playing any major political leadership role due to the various legal processes that will now be set in motion," said Tony Leon, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance.

The organisations that have been most supportive of Mr Zuma - the ANC Youth League, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party - said a trial would give Mr Zuma the chance to clear his name.

"We trust that a court trial will shed light and bring finality to this matter," the SACP said in a statement.

Divisions

Mr Mbeki announced Mr Zuma's dismissal last Tuesday, saying that although Mr Zuma must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, his sacking would be in the interests of South Africa's young democracy.

Schabir Shaik
Shaik's trial prompted a new investigation into Zuma's conduct

But two days later, crowds attending the annual Youth Day rallies were vocal in their support for Mr Zuma and their condemnation of Mr Mbeki.

In KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Zuma's supporters threw bottles and jeered a senior ANC official, who had to leave a rally with a police escort.

Mr Zuma remains deputy president of the ANC, and some commentators have spoken of a crisis in the ruling party as a result of the sacking.

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips in Johannesburg says that the ANC is struggling to control the divisions caused by the sacking and will not relish the prospect of Mr Zuma going on trial.

Mr Zuma has frequently protested his innocence, and said he has been tried by the media.

Shaik's trial stemmed from an earlier investigation into a South African government arms deal, in which the then chief prosecutor said there was prima facie evidence against Mr Zuma, but decided there was not sufficient evidence to convict the deputy president.

But following the Shaik judgement - in which it was found that Mr Shaik had solicited a bribe on behalf of Mr Zuma - the NPA began once again to investigate charges against Mr Zuma.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear Jacob Zuma defend himself




SEE ALSO:
Press backs Zuma sacking
15 Jun 05 |  Africa
What next for South African politics?
14 Jun 05 |  Have Your Say
Zuma: Mbeki's toughest decision
14 Jun 05 |  Africa
Zuma: Bad days for Mr Nice Guy
07 Jun 05 |  Africa


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