Zuma continues to block release of corruption report | Africa | DW | 26.10.2016
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Zuma continues to block release of corruption report

South African President Jacob Zuma continues to fight against the release of a graft report by a government watchdog. Anger is at an all-time high in South Africa and some say the report could end his career.

South African President Jacob Zuma is not giving up without a fight. On Tuesday, he told South Africa's Upper House of Parliament that he would continue his bid to block the release of the graft report by Thuli Madonsela, South Africa's former public protector.

"As a citizen of this country, I have a legal right to exercise my rights. I interdicted it. There is nothing wrong," Zuma told a stormy session of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

The report by the former public protector - an official watching over the conduct of government - investigates the links between the Gupta family of Indian-born businessmen to the South African government. The Guptas oversee a sprawling business empire in South Africa that includes interests in mining and technology firms and they own The New Age, a pro-government newspaper.

Government jobs for sale?

But they have come under fire for allegedly offering key government jobs to politicians willing to support the family's business interests. In March, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas claimed that the Guptas offered him the post of finance minister.

President Zuma's close ties to the family have raised eyebrows among South Africa's public, but both the president and the Gupta family have denied any wrongdoing. President Zuma did admit in an affidavit on Tuesday that he was an "implicated person" in the report.

"It's hard to see his efforts as anything but an infantile attempt to delay what we expect to be quite a damaging report on him," Phillip de Wet, associate editor with South Africa's Mail & Guardian weekly, told DW.

People dressed in red T-Shirts holding a poster that reads Vote EFF.

The opposition EFF party is demanding President Zuma's resignation

The president has been fighting a growing chorus of voices calling for his resignation, both from the opposition and his own African National Congress (ANC) party.

"Jacob Zuma is not competent enough to be president of this country," said opposition lawmaker Younus Vawda during Tuesday's debate. He was among members of Parliament from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party who were ejected during Tuesday's debate for disrupting the president's speech.

Anti-Zuma calls from within the ANC

Anger over Zuma is also growing within his party and civil society over the number of corruption allegations against him. Frustrations are also rising after the judiciary brought in fraud charges against popular Finance Minister Pravin Godhan, viewed by many as a bedrock of stability in the face of economic decline. They are seen as an attempt to settle political scores, even by some camps within the ruling party.

"President Zuma is the president of the ANC. When I say the entire ANC leadership that has already taken collective responsibility must take the fall, I meant everybody, including myself, including President Zuma," ANC parliamentary chief whip Jackson Mthembu said last week.

A portrait picture of an elderly gentleman in a suit.

Anger is growing over legal charges against popular Finance Minister Praving Gordhan

During Tuesday's debate, President Zuma assured the finance minister of his support, but told Parliament that he had no right to intervene in the legal case against him.

"Only a court can look and judge on that matter," Zuma said.

Delaying tactics

Fighting the release of the report could give Zuma time to try to quell growing dissent within his party, experts say.

"Given a couple of months, Zuma might be able to reaffirm his position in the African National Congress. If he can see the report released under those kinds of conditions, he has a much greater chance of surviving that fact," the Mail and Guardian's de Wet told DW.

But despite the struggle for power getting worse within the ANC, nobody can predict the president's fate at the moment.

"President Jacob Zuma seems to be in a weaker position than he has ever been in his time in office," said de Wet. "We have written his epitaph many times before and there is a reason we started calling him the 'Teflon president' after surviving all of these assaults."

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