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S.Africa puts graft case against Zuma’s son on hold

South African prosecutors said Thursday they were temporarily setting aside prosecution of Duduzane Zuma, the son of graft-tainted former president Jacob Zuma, as they await a key witness testifying in corruption probe.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) filed corruption charges against Duduzane, 35, in 2015 for an alleged role in the attempted 600 million rand (about $43 million) bribery of former deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas, on behalf of the wealthy Gupta family.

But on Thursday, the NPA told the Specialised Crimes Court in Johannesburg that it wanted to let Jonas finish testifying at a separate inquiry into corruption before they pursued a case against Zuma.

“The NPA took a decision to provisionally withdraw the charges against Duduzane Zuma, quoting reasons that one of our key witnesses (Jonas) in this matter is currently under oath at the commission for state capture,” they said in a statement.

“The prosecutor therefore deemed it fit to halt the prosecution up until that process is finalised.”

It added: “His evidence (Jonas) is not over. He must still be cross-examined.”

The other inquiry, called the Zondo commission, began in August.

It is investigating a web of murky deals involving government officials, the wealthy Gupta family and state owned entities.

Jonas testified at the Zondo commission last year that Zuma’s son allegedly offered him the position of finance minister at the Gupta family’s Saxonwold compound in exchange for furthering the family’s business interests.

Jonas is expected to be cross-examined about this encounter at the commission in coming weeks.

Duduzane was previously employed by the Guptas.

His father Jacob Zuma, 76, was forced to resign last February over allegations centring around the Guptas.

Duduzane also appeared at the Randburg magistrates court on Thursday morning for separate charges of culpable homicide.

He is accused of causing the death of a woman, Phumzile Dube, after his Porsche hit the minibus she was travelling in.

Three others were injured and one passenger, Nankie Mashaba, died in hospital weeks later.

The trial in this case will begin on March 26.

It is not unusual for prosecuting authorities in South Africa to provisionally withdraw charges.

They have temporarily withdrawn formal charges in other high-profile cases, with the intent to reinstate them at a later stage.

This was the case last November, when prosecutors withdrew graft charges against some of Zuma’s allies but said these would be reintroduced if more cooperation from Indian officials were forthcoming.