Jacob Zuma drops bid to block corruption report

Published by Théophile Niyitegeka
On 2 November 2016 saa 07:12
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Surprise move paves way for release of report of probe into claim president allowed wealthy family undue political sway.

South African President Jacob Zuma has abandoned a court bid to block a watchdog’s report into corruption allegations against him as calls grow for him to step down.

The surprise move on Wednesday came as thousands of people began to take to the streets of the administrative capital, Pretoria, to demand his departure.

The decision paves the way for the release of the inquiry into accusations that he allowed a wealthy Indian family undue political sway, including letting them choose some cabinet ministers.

"My instructions are to withdraw the application," Anthea Platt, Zuma’s lawyer, told the High Court in Pretoria at the start of the second day of the hearing.

Thuli Madonsela, former public ombudswoman, concluded her report into the influence of the Gupta family last month, shortly before the expiry of her seven-year term.

It was due to be released on October 14 until Zuma moved to block it.

Zuma, 74, has survived a string of damaging scandals, but faces increasing criticism as South Africa’s economy stalls and after the ruling ANC party suffered unprecedented losses in local polls.

Some factions of the ANC, former anti-apartheid activists and business leaders have all recently called for him to stand down before his term ends in 2019.

Protests against Zuma

On Wednesday thousands of opposition party supporters, unions and civil groups marched through Pretoria to protest against Zuma’s presidency.

The marches were originally planned to show support for Pravin Gordhan, the finance minister, who was due in court on Wednesday on separate corruption charges that many analysts see as an attempt by Zuma loyalists to remove him.

But prosecutors dropped the charges on Monday in another twist to a power struggle that has exposed deep tensions in the ANC.

The ANC, the party that Nelson Mandela led in the fight against apartheid, has held power since white-minority rule ended in 1994.

The Gupta family - brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh - built an empire in mining, transportation, technology and media after arriving in South Africa from India in the early 1990s.

One of Zuma’s sons, Duduzane, is their business partner.

Early this year, Mcebisi Jonas, South Africa’s deputy finance minister, accused the Gupta family of offering him the job of finance minister, something he said he rejected.

Zuma last month said he was not given enough time to respond to the watchdog’s questions.

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President Jacob Zuma, 74, has survived a string of damaging scandals