S.African court blocks Zuma choice to lead prosecutions

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South Africa's highest appeals court on Thursday declared that President Jacob Zuma's choice to lead national prosecutions was unfit for the job, ordering him out of office.

Menzi Simelane's appointment as national director of prosecutions was "inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid," the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled.

"The appointment is reviewed and set aside," according to the judgement handed down in the central city of Bloemfontein and posted online.

The ruling overturned a lower court decision, and the presidency has already indicated that it would take the case to the Constitutional Court.

Simelane was named head of prosecutions in 2009, after Zuma axed the previous director Vusi Pikoli, who in 2005 had brought graft charges against him.

The charges against Zuma were dropped shortly before the 2009 elections that brought him to power.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance challenged Simelane's appointment in court, asserting that he was chosen to shield Zuma from prosecution for corruption.

The Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that Simelane was unfit for office because he had given "misleading and untruthful evidence" when testifying to investigators looking into Pikoli.

"On the available evidence, the president could in any event not have reached a conclusion favourable to Mr Simelane, as there were too many unresolved questions concerning his integrity and experience," the verdict said.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille declared the ruling "a victory of our constitutional democracy".

"We hope the president will do the right thing and relieve Mr Simelane of his duties."

© 2011 AFP

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