March 20, 2012 / 11:29 AM / 5 years ago

S.Africa opposition wins access to Zuma graft probe papers

South Africa President Jacob Zuma at the U.N. headquarters in New York, January 12, 2012.Brendan McDermid/Files

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's main opposition party won the right on Tuesday to review potentially damaging documents from a discontinued corruption case against President Jacob Zuma in 2009, a move that could hurt Zu m a's chances of re-election as ANC leader.

The president, who seeks re-election as African National Congress (ANC) leader late this year, had been expected to win easily, virtually securing him another five-year term in office as president because of the party's dominance over politics.

Tuesday's court ruling allows the main opposition access to papers from a case against Zuma over a tainted arms deal, which was dropped by prosecutors just weeks before a presidential election in 2009, clearing the way for him to win the race.

The Supreme Court of Appeal said in its ruling that it was "in the public interest" to allow the opposition Democratic Alliance access to the papers from the case.

Zuma has said he was the victim of a political conspiracy while his opponents have accused the ANC of back-room deals to clear his name.

It is not known what is contained in the documents or how much of the documents the opposition would be allowed to see.

Officials from the presidency and the ANC were not immediately available for comment.

Zuma had been implicated in a decade-old arms deal that led to several ANC heavyweights being convicted of bribery. He had been charged with corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering.

The National Prosecuting Authority said in 2009 there were abuses in the police investigation and it was dropping the charges without revealing details of their investigation.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Cosmas Butunyi; Editing by David Dolan and Susan Fenton

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