Zuma under pressure to quit as graft probe suggests crimes

By Antony Sguazzin, Amogelang Mbatha, Mike Cohen

South African President Jacob Zuma. Photo / AP
South African President Jacob Zuma. Photo / AP

South African President Jacob Zuma and some ministers may have breached the Government's code of ethics in their dealings with the Gupta family, a report says.

Prosecutors must investigate possible crimes that may have been committed, the nation's graft ombudsman said - piling pressure on the President to resign.

The 355-page report released today called on Zuma to set up a judicial commission of inquiry to probe the President's conduct with the family, who are his friends and in business with his son.

It details allegations that the Guptas may have influenced the appointment of Cabinet members and received special treatment for a coal business linked to the family and Duduzane Zuma.

The allegations of corruption at the highest levels of government are the latest blow to Zuma's presidency. The report was released after a dramatic day when Zuma abandoned his request to the High Court to block its publication and protesters demanding an end to state corruption demonstrated in the capital, Pretoria.

Since taking office in 2009, Zuma has been implicated in a series of scandals, including a March 31 ruling by the nation's highest court that he violated the constitution by refusing to repay taxpayer funds spent on his home.

"The report confirms the variety of allegations leveled against our president in the last year or two," Daniel Silke, director of the Political Futures Consultancy in Cape Town, said by phone. "It further erodes confidence in President Zuma, who is reeling already. Having this report from a source like the Public Protector is the final straw in the curtailment of the Zuma era before his term ends in 2019."

The ombudsman said that Zuma's failure to investigate allegations by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas that the Guptas offered him the post of minister may have violated the executive ethics code.

Zuma's office said earlier today that he would study the report to see whether "it should be a subject of a court challenge".

The ombudsman's report was completed just days before Thuli Madonsela's seven-year term as graft ombudsman came to an end and she was replaced by Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who didn't oppose the court bid to halt the report's release. Zuma and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing.

Madonsela said she should have taken a harder stance against Zuma in her report, and accused the President of breaking his word by failing to answer her questions and failing to show up for planned meetings. Zuma is legally bound to abide by her directives, she said.

"I regret listening to lawyers who represented the broader legal community that I should tread softly with this report mainly to avoid a successful court review of the report," she said.

Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance, which originally asked the Public Protector to investigate his relationship with the Guptas, called on Zuma to resign.

"Given the scale of the state capture that is detailed in the report, which he has allowed and indeed fostered, he cannot continue in office," he said.

- Bloomberg

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