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South Africa prosecutor calls for graft probe against Zuma

November 2, 2016

South Africa's outgoing anti-corruption prosecutor has said there is reason to open a criminal investigation against President Jacob Zuma. His links to the wealthy Gupta family have been a source of constant speculation.

Südafrika Proteste vor ANC Zentrale in Johannesburg
Image: Reuters/S. Sibeko

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday that he would not stand in the way of a report linking him to the wealthy Gupta family. His lawyer did not give any reasons for the President's change of mind. 

 Zuma had argued that he was not given enough time to respond to questions posed by former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, during the investigation of his links to the controversial and powerful Indian business family. The report, dubbed 'state capture,' alleges the Gupta brothers had undue influence on the president over his ministerial appointments.

The release of the report by the Public Protector, a constitutionally mandated anti-graft official, was suspended on October 14 after Zuma's application to the High Court. The hearing ran into its second day on Wednesday.

While the new Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, did not intend to challenge Zuma's application to interdict the report, the country's four major opposition parties applied to the court to be admitted as intervening parties to challenge Zuma's application.

Representing two of the four challenging parties, the Congress of the People (COPE) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM), was Advocate Dali Mpofu, who said on Tuesday that the opposition's application was a matter of public importance.

"The intervening parties have always maintained that the current president is not fit for office. Any proof that he has abdicated his presidential functions to a private party will show that he is not fit for office," Mpofu said.

The leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, Mmusi Maimane, told journalists at the court that the report must be released urgently. "We laid the complaint so that we can begin to hold those who are responsible accountable," Maimane said.

Hundreds of opposition parties' supporters sang and danced outside the court demanding for the release of the report. If released, experts say the report would be so damaging that Zuma could be left with no option but to step down.

Mandela Foundation rebukes Zuma

Meanwhile, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has sharply criticized President Zuma in a statement released on Tuesday. It said "political meddling for private interests" during Zuma's tenure has weakened state institutions and posed a threat to the country's democracy, according to the statement.

Südafrika Präsident Jacob Zuma
President Zuma's support wanes within ruling partyImage: Imago/Gallo Images

It is unusual for the foundation to comment on political disputes in the country. The non-profit organization has been focusing on equality, racism and other themes in the country.

The foundation, whose board consists of ten prominent South African academics, politicians and journalists, called on the ruling African National Congress party, the liberation movement once headed by Mandela and now led by Zuma, to change its leadership.

"We call on the governing party to take the steps necessary to ensure that the vehicle of state be protected and placed in safe and capable hands," it said in the statement.

Since coming to power in 2009, President Zuma has survived a string of corruption scandals almost unscathed.

tk/im (AFP/AP)