South Africa’s Conference of Catholic Bishops has pushed for the development of an anti-corruption court, citing the damage to the country’s morale after a long-standing corruption case against President Jacob Zuma.
“We urge constitutional experts and the Law Reform Commission to guide the nation on the feasibility of establishing an anti-corruption court,” said Bishop Abel Gabuza of Kimberley, chairman of the conference’s Justice and Peace Commission. “When allegations of corruption hang over the head of a sitting president for this long‚Äö something gives way. In our case‚Äö the moral fiber of our nation has suffered massive damage as a result of people losing confidence in the office of the president.”
On Friday, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a 2016 ruling by the Pretoria High Court that 783 accounts of corruption could be reinstated against President Zuma. The ruling stated that the charges should never have been dropped by the then-National Prosecutor Mokotedi Mphse.
Known as the Spy Tapes case, the charges were revoked in 2009 after the phone-intercepted recordings were condemned as a political plot against Zuma’s presidential platform. Zuma had been associated with an over $2 billion arms deal after his financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, had been charged with corruption and fraud in 2005.
“The court battle on the Spygate and corresponding corruption allegations against the President have been going on for more than eight years. If the National Prosecuting Authority decides to reinstate corruption charges against the President‚Äö the matter will probably continue for another four years,” Bishop Gabuza said in an October 16 statement.
South Africa’s bishops expressed concern that an extended case would affect the public’s confidence in the presidential office and “its ability to fight corruption at all levels of government.”
The bishops’ conference urged the nation to form an anti-corruption court “that would ensure speedy and efficient addressing and disposal of corruption cases and financial crimes.” The conference said that Zuma has not shown himself to be a president who is overly concerned with the fight against corruption and challenged future presidential candidates to push for a specialized anti-corruption system.