FILE PHOTO: South African President Jacob Zuma listens at a news conference in Cape Town

Johannesburg - The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) on Friday welcomed NPA head Shaun Abrahams' announcement that former president Jacob Zuma would go on trial on fraud, racketeering, corruption and money laundering charges related to the arms deal saga. 

Abrahams made the announcement at a media briefing in Pretoria and said he considered representations from Zuma but rejected the former president's submission which contained allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and "inexplicable delays".

"After consideration of the matter, I am of the view that there are reasonable prospects to successfully prosecute Zuma on charges listed in the indictment.

"I am of the view that there are reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution of Zuma in the charges listed in the indictment," Abrahams said.

Zuma now faces 16 charges‚ involving 783 incidents‚ of racketeering‚ corruption‚ money laundering and fraud.

READ MORE: NEWS JUST IN: Jacob Zuma to face trial - NPA

The IRR's Head of Policy and Governance Gareth van Onselen in a statement said Abrahams' decision represented a victory for democracy.

"The decision represents an important victory for two critical aspects of any constitutional democracy: The rule of law, and the role and purpose of a vigilant opposition. Our democracy has been well served by both and will, as a result, be stronger for the precedent set.

"It is worrying, however, that despite a vast, well-documented and repeatedly confirmed compendium of evidence concerning the former president, well ventilated over the course of a decade, it took so long for it to translate into the requisite moral imperative inside the ANC itself."

Van Onselen added that: "Even at the point of his removal from office, neither the ANC nor the incumbent, President Cyril Ramaphosa, would provide the public with reasons for the termination of his tenure. Today, the public is none the wiser. 

"This disjuncture – between a well-evidenced argument for his unsuitability for office and an obligation to the public to lead by example and in an open and transparent manner – suggests that, even today, the ANC has failed properly to take responsibility for the decision it made, when it elected Jacob Zuma as its president in 2007."

He added that this was a cause for serious concern because it meant that South Africa would "remain at the mercy of populism if it does not inculcate the important lessons Jacob Zuma’s legal battles hold". 

"Of them all, the ultimate one is that all are equal before the law. When we allow self-interest to elevate one man above others in the name of some demagogic agenda, that is to open the path to self-destruction and tyranny," he said.