South African Leader Indicted for Corruption

Lawyer calls charges 'politically motivated'; party crisis intensifies
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2007 10:39 PM CST
Newly elected ANC president Jacob Zuma addresses delegates as the leading party's 52nd conference in Polokwane, South Africa, came to an end Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – South African prosecutors hit a new ruling party leader with corruption charges today, threatening his shot at the presidency and risking a prolonged legal and political crisis, the Guardian reports. ANC leader Jacob Zuma was ordered to stand trial next year on charges including racketeering and fraud linked to a $7.1 billion arms deal in 1999. Zuma's lawyer called the move politically motivated and the timing suspicious.

Analysts expect the indictment to bring further strife to a party—and country—deeply divided by Zuma's leadership battle with President Thabo Mbeki, the New York Times reports. “What you have here is a declaration of war,” said a critic of Mbeki. Zuma beat Mbeki in a bitter contest for the ANC helm last week, but has little chance of becoming president until the next election in 2009.