South African President Jacob Zuma has asked a court to block the release of a report into his alleged involvement in corruption. The leader has come under increasing pressure over several damaging graft scandals.
The court notice was filed one day before South Africa's public protector was to publish the findings of a probe into allegations that President Zuma let a wealthy family, the Guptas, have influence over the government.
"I can confirm that the president has applied for a court interdict," Zuma's spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga said Thursday, without revealing whether the application had been granted.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had been investigating the Guptas, an Indian-born family accused of using their close ties with Zuma to influence the appointment of government ministers. Both the president and the family deny charges of wrongdoing.
Last week, Madonsela interviewed Zuma for four hours as part of the probe. She was due to release her findings on Friday.
However, South African news website "Times Live" quoted a source within her office as saying that the report could not be released as planned because a judge had not ruled on Zuma's request. It added that the application was only due to be heard in court on Tuesday.
Dogged by scandal
Zuma's presidency has been badly damaged by a series of corruption scandals over the past few years. Perhaps most controversial was the revelation he had spent millions in public funds to upgrade his private Nkandla homestead.
Earlier this year, the embattled 74-year-old was forced to repay around 500,000 euros ($542,000) - a small fraction of the total amount spent on the renovations. That payment was also the result of an investigation by Public Protector Madonsela. She ends her seven-year term as head of the state watchdog agency on Saturday, when she will be replaced by lawyer Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
The scandal surrounding Zuma's residence became a symbol of corruption within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, which has been at the helm of South African politics since the end of apartheid rule. It had a notable effect on his party politics; the ANC suffered unprecedented losses in local elections in August.
Several municipalities fell into the hands of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) or DA-led coalitions, and there is already speculation the ANC could struggle to gain an absolute majority in the 2019 legislative elections.
nm/jm (AFP, Reuters)