Former president Jacob Zuma File picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Johannesburg - The National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) decision to prosecute former president Jacob Zuma "is an epic victory for the unions, social movements, and ordinary citizens who have for years been demanding action against these criminals", the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said on Saturday.

Saftu "enthusiastically" welcomed the long-overdue decision of the NPA to prosecute Zuma on 16 charges of corruption, money laundering, and racketeering in connection with the controversial multi-million-rand arms deal scandal in the late 1990s, Saftu said in a statement.

"At long last the tide has turned against a political leader who bankrupted the nation through his systematic looting of the country to enrich himself, his family, and his cronies at the expense of the people, especially workers and the poor. While Zuma, the Guptas and Co amassed millions of rand, the poor faced soaring unemployment, deepening poverty, and obscene levels of inequality," Saftu said.

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Zuma also "corrupted" public institutions, including the NPA, South African Revenue Service (Sars), and the Hawks, whose constitutional rule should years ago have been enforcing the Constitution and the law by prosecuting the corrupters, "but who used their positions to do everything possible to protect the people they should have been arresting". 

"There was a deliberate effort to ensure that no such charges were ever brought. The very fact that the NPA can say today that 'there are reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution of Mr Zuma' on the corruption charges proves that there always was a case, since nothing has changed since 2009 when the charges were withdrawn - 'unlawfully' and 'irrationally' - according to the Supreme Court of Appeal," Saftu said. 

"This is an epic victory for the unions, social movements, and ordinary citizens who have for years been demanding action against these criminals. They had to fight an African National Congress, its office bearers, NEC [national executive committee], parliamentary caucus, and its then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, who all for years defeated every attempt to bring Zuma to justice and put a stop to the plundering of the country, and, with a few honourable exceptions, did not lift a finger to condemn the looters," Saftu said.

African News Agency/ANA