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Zuma can still face charges

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POLOKWANE, South Africa (AP) — Top prosecutor Mokotedi Mpshe said yesterday he has enough evidence to bring corruption charges against Jacob Zuma, the man standing in line to be South Africa's next president.

Mr. Mpshe said prosecutors will announce in the new year the next step in their investigation of Mr. Zuma, who was elected leader of the African National Congress (ANC) party Tuesday.

Mr. Mpshe is investigating claims that in the 1990s, Mr. Zuma accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from the French arms company Thint to use his influence to stop investigations into a multibillion-dollar arms deal with the government. The contracts were suspected of being secured through bribes.

"If I have a case to answer, then take me to court," Mr. Zuma said yesterday.

"The type of evidence we have so far can be taken to court," Mr. Mpshe said.

President Thabo Mbeki fired Mr. Zuma as the country's deputy president in 2005 after Mr. Zuma's financial adviser was convicted of trying to elicit a bribe for Mr. Zuma to deflect investigations into the arms deal. Charges were withdrawn against Mr. Zuma, who denies the accusations and says he is being pursued by prosecutors for political reasons.

Mr. Zuma, whose political career so far has managed to survive sex and corruption scandals, routed Mr. Mbeki to win the ANC presidency at a divisive party convention. Zuma loyalists also won all other top party posts.

Mr. Zuma's victory meant that for the first time since apartheid ended, South Africa's president was not also the ANC leader. That had sparked speculation Mr. Mbeki might step down before his term as president ends in 2009, though a Mbeki aide said yesterday he was not considering that.

Earlier yesterday, in his first speech since winning the leadership, Mr. Zuma pledged to work smoothly with Mr. Mbeki, calling the South African president his "comrade, friend and brother" of 30 years.

"Contesting positions among comrades does not make us enemies," Mr. Zuma said, looking directly at Mr. Mbeki, who sat in the front row of at the ANC national conference.

The ANC leader is traditionally the party's presidential candidate, and overwhelming support for the party throughout South Africa has ensured victories first for Nelson Mandela in 1994, then Mr. Mbeki in 1999 and 2004. Mr. Mbeki is prevented by constitutional term limits from running again in 2009, but if he had won a third term as ANC leader, he would have been in position to groom his successor.

Last year, Mr. Zuma was acquitted of raping a family friend, but he outraged AIDS activists by testifying he had unprotected, consensual sex with the HIV-positive woman and then took a shower with the understanding it would protect him from the virus.

Mr. Zuma had rallied ANC members dissatisfied with Mr. Mbeki's market-oriented policies, which produced an economic boom and created a small black elite but failed to lift the majority from poverty.

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