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Influence denied in case against South African heir apparent

  • Story Highlights
  • Zuma, poised to be S. Africa's next president, indicted for alleged corruption
  • President Mbeki, who fired Zuma in '05, was defeated by Zuma to lead ANC
  • Mbeki allegedly influenced Zuma's indictment
  • Prosecutors deny "being misused to advance" political, other objectives
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(CNN) -- South African prosecutors on Tuesday denied claims that President Thabo Mbeki influenced their indictment of newly elected African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma.

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ANC leader Jacob Zuma, right, embraces his rival Thabo Mbeki.

The National Prosecuting Authority on Friday indicted Zuma, whose election positioned him as likely to succeed Mbeki as the nation's next president.

Zuma defeated Mbeki last month in a bitter contest to lead anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela's powerful ANC. He was indicted 10 days later on charges of corruption, fraud, money-laundering and racketeering. Video Watch Zuma after defeating Mbeki »

Zuma's allies have accused Mbeki of influencing the NPA's decision to indict Zuma, who has faced corruption allegations for years.

"The NPA is sensitive to the controversy which this decision evokes," said a statement Tuesday about the indictment. "We are also aware of claims that the NPA is being misused to advance the political and other objectives of certain individuals. This is not so. The decision has been made by the NPA and the NPA alone." See more on controversial Zuma »

The prosecutors' statement said the NPA's "only allegiance is to the Constitution of the country, which compels us to prosecute serious matters such as the present one without fear, favor or prejudice. We are obliged to carry out this mandate, however unpopular it might be."

Zuma has been ordered to stand trial in August.

The charges stem from a payment Zuma allegedly received as South Africa's deputy president from his financial adviser, guaranteeing protection in any government investigation into an arms deal.

The adviser, Schabir Shaik, was found guilty in 2005 of bribing Zuma and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Mbeki sacked Zuma as deputy president after the verdict.

Separately, Zuma was cleared of rape after a controversial trial in 2006.

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Traditionally, the head of the ANC stands as the party's presidential candidate. ANC has supported victorious presidential candidates since 1994, when Mandela became the nation's first black president after the demise of South Africa's racist apartheid system.

Mbeki, who followed Mandela in 1999 and 2004, is constitutionally required to step down in 2009. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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