Across Africa, the news that former President Jacob Zuma will face corruption charges ricocheted, after more than 700 counts were reinstated on Friday. Zuma is only the second African head of state to face charges of theft from the public purse in his own country – the first was Zambia's Frederick Chiluba.
BREAKING: Shaun Abrahams announces Jacob Zuma will face prosecution. Corruption charges against the former president reinstated. pic.twitter.com/KOj2d4qU5K— HuffPost SouthAfrica (@HuffPostSA) March 16, 2018
Few other heads of state or their deputies have been charged in former colonial capitals. While former kleptocrats in big African nations like Kenya and Nigeria may have stolen more, their judicial systems are too weak to have mounted the scale of operation Zuma now faces, say analysts.
South Africa's theatre of accountability for corruption is now in full production, with the announcement by national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams on Friday that Zuma will go on trial.
Abrahams said he believed the chances of a successful prosecution are good, despite representations by Zuma's legal team, who alleged that the process was tainted by manipulation and politics.
One of Zuma's greatest fears ahead of leaving office was that he would face a long trial – that has now come to pass. The legal costs of Zuma's defence will be borne by the state, although opposition parties are trying to claw back costs from the former head of state.
Other theatres in which the corrupt face their reckonings include a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, with a high-powered team of commissioners led by the deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, which will start work from Monday.
In addition, there are at least three different parliamentary inquiries into corruption at state-owned enterprises ongoing in Parliament. The National Prosecuting Authority, whose KwaZulu-Natal director Moipone Noko will lead Zuma's prosecution, has also opened what its spokesperson says are hundreds of files on state capture across state-owned enterprises and provincial governments. The team is primarily using asset forfeiture as a first step to weeding out corruption across the public sector.
South Africa is in the midst of an unprecedented legal battle against corruption, as President Cyril Ramaphosa attempts to make good on his key ANC campaign ticket, which was based on a message of being anti-graft.
Globally, Zuma joins the Brazilian leader Lula da Silva in the dock. Lula is facing his sixth corruption trial, and has been found guilty in one so far.
The former Guatamalan leader Juan Alberto Fuentes went on trial earlier in March. In Israel, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing corruption charges, after police recommended he be tried for bribery.
Last year, South Korea's former leader Park Geun Hye went on trial for corruption after being forced from office by mass protests. In January, Angola's former vice-president Manuel Vicente was a no-show when a Portuguese court summonsed him on corruption, money-laundering and forgery charges.
Also last year, Equatorial Guinea's Teodorin Obiang didn't pitch at a French court, where he faced corruption charges for blowing public funds on his infamous high life. Earlier this month, former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan also did not pitch as a witness in a high-profile corruption case in the Nigerian capital, Lagos.
Earlier this year, Zuma said corruption was much ado about nothing, but that he was worried about the abuse of scarce resources. He told reporters in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa at the African Union Summit that:
"There is very big noise about corruption in Africa, and indeed we have acknowledged that yes there is, although at times it is quite exaggerated. And we couldn't just wait; the fact that we have reached a point where we say it's a problem that we should collectively tackle together – I think it's a step forward that says we are worried that if corruption is not tackled, the very scarce resources that we have are abused in one form or the other," said Zuma