JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The High Court of South Africa ruled on Friday that the appointment of a state prosecutor by President Jacob Zuma to decide whether to reinstate corruption charges against him was invalid and should be dismissed immediately.
The court also ruled that Zuma should not make a new appointment. He said that Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa should appoint a new prosecutor within 60 days.
The ruling is a sharp reprimand for Zuma, who must resign in 2019 after more than a decade in power. Zuma's office said he would appeal the decision.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), whose chief prosecutor Shaun Abrahams was removed from his post by the High Court ruling, was not available for comment.
The rand was driven by the court's ruling, and badysts said the markets saw Zuma's influence reduced.
Chief Justice Dunstan Mlambo said in the Superior Court of Pretoria that Abrahams' appointment as National Director of Public Prosecutions was "invalid and nullified".
In his ruling, Mlambo said: "In our opinion, President Zuma is clearly in conflict when he has to appoint a National Director of Public Processes, given the background … and particularly the ever present spectrum of the many charges penalties against him that have not gone away. "
The charges against Zuma relate to a 30 billion rand ($ 2 billion) government arms deal fixed in the late 1990s and expanded calls for Zuma to resign before the end of his term as president in 2019.
In October, the Supreme Court upheld a previous court decision that the nearly 800 corruption charges brought against Zuma before he became president were reinstated.
Then it fell to Abrahams, appointed by Zuma as the state's chief prosecutor in 2015, to decide whether the NPA would pursue a case against Zuma.
Abrahams gave Zuma until the end of November to make representations to avoid charges being brought against him. Abrahams has not commented on whether Zuma submitted any comments on the decision he made on the matter.
The case in the Superior Court of Pretoria had been presented by a trio of civil society organizations seeking an order declaring that the dismissal of the previous prosecutor was invalid.
Zuma has faced a series of corruption allegations during his tenure. Most are leaked emails suggesting that their friends, the Gupta family, may have used their influence to secure lucrative state contracts for their companies.
Zuma and the Guptas deny doing something wrong.
The African National Congress (ANC), which is elected Zuma's successor next week, said it would allow the parties involved to reflect on the trial and its implications, as well as decide whether to appeal or not.
Ralph Mathekga, an independent badyst, said the court's decision "will likely be appealed if you look at the government's record." Surely it will end in the Constitutional Court.
"It will spill the ANC even more, in a way, empower Ramaphosa, but remember, there is a faction in the ANC that is very suspicious of the courts and this could encourage Zuma and his allies in the campaign against the establishment." .
Edition of James Macharia and Matthew Mpoke Bigg