By Alexander Winning
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Duduzane Zuma, son of former South African president Jacob Zuma, was released on bail on Monday after appearing in court in leg irons on corruption charges, the most high profile figure to be prosecuted so far in investigations into graft under his father.
Johannesburg’s Specialised Commercial Crime Court ordered Duduzane Zuma, who returned to South Africa last week to attend his brother’s funeral, to pay 100,000 rand ($7,440) bail. His case was postponed until Jan. 24, 2019.
His court appearance marks a dramatic turnaround from Jacob Zuma’s nine years in power, when corruption allegations involving top officials were rarely investigated.
Zuma’s successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has staked his reputation on rooting out corruption since becoming head of state in February.
Duduzane faces charges of corruption and conspiracy to commit corruption which his lawyers say he will contest.
They relate to allegations that he took former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas to an October 2015 meeting with the Gupta family, friends of his father, who tried to bribe Jonas in his presence.
The Guptas offered Jonas the position of finance minister in return for a bank transfer of 600 million rand and 600,000 rand in cash, if Jonas would assist the Guptas with their business ventures, according to a provisional charge sheet seen by Reuters.
The Guptas have denied that there was anything untoward in their relationship with former president Zuma, but their ties will be investigated as part of an influence-peddling inquiry due to start later this year. The Guptas’ whereabouts are not publicly known, and an attempt to contact a legal representative for them was unsuccessful.
Duduzane, who has held senior positions in several Gupta businesses, was detained briefly at Johannesburg’s main airport late on Thursday over the allegations made by Jonas in 2016.
An elite South African police investigating unit, the Hawks, launched a corruption probe into Duduzane and the Gupta family at the time, but it made little headway until Zuma left power.
Duduzane, who appeared relaxed and was joking with journalists in court on Monday despite being shackled, was ordered to hand over his passport and report weekly to police by magistrate Jeremy Jansen van Vuuren.
Duduzane’s lawyers said they believed the case against him was weak. The state’s lawyers said they were still investigating the case against him.
Duduzane was also due to appear at Randburg Magistrate’s Court in Johannesburg this week to face charges of culpable homicide over a fatal car crash in 2014, when his Porsche 911 crashed into a minivan taxi, killing one woman and seriously injuring another who later died in hospital.
He previously said his car hit a puddle of water before crashing, and his lawyers have said he will contest the homicide charges.
Jacob Zuma was also in court last month on corruption charges relating to a $2.5 billion arms deal from the 1990s. The elder Zuma denies wrongdoing in that case, and his supporters say he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.
(Additional reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Ed Cropley, William Maclean and Richard Balmforth)