South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma launched his court bid Tuesday to block the publication of a potentially explosive report that resulted from a probe of his ties to a powerful family of Indian businessmen.
The report investigated allegations that Zuma allowed the Gupta family undue political sway, including letting them choose some cabinet ministers.
But Tuesday’s proceedings in Pretoria High Court focused on procedural matters, such as which parties could join the case, and will resume Wednesday on the core issue of Zuma’s effort to keep the report secret.
On Tuesday the court ruled four opposition parties and a former ANC lawmaker have the right to challenge Zuma’s bid.
Dali Mpofu, the lawyer representing some of the opposition parties, said Zuma’s application was motivated by fears that his implication “might lead to the invocation of the impeachment proceedings or motion of no confidence.”
Another lawyer, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi representing the left-leaning Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) argued that Zuma’s application was a desperate attempt to try to prohibit the publication of the report.
Former ombudswoman Thuli Madonsela concluded the report last month, shortly before the expiry of her seven-year non-renewable term. It was due to be released on October 14 but Zuma moved to block it.
Zuma, 74, has survived a string of damaging scandals, but has faced increasing criticism as the economy has stalled and after the ruling ANC party suffered unprecedented losses in local polls.
The Guptas — brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh — built an empire in mining transportation, technology and media after coming to South Africa from India in the early 1990s. One of Zuma’s sons, Duduzane, is their business partner.
Deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas early this year accused the 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 investigators’ questions.
– ‘Wheels coming off’ –
The current political malaise in the country has prompted calls for Zuma to resign, with the country’s biggest public sector union being the latest voice to call for Zuma’s head.
The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union said Tuesday its executive meeting had resolved that “it could no longer be denied that Zuma’s leadership in government is now untenable.”
The union said it was in the interest of the ANC to ensure that Zuma “is no longer the head of state,” by the next general elections in 2019.
Zuma is currently serving his second five-year term, and is due to step down in 2019.
The beleaguered leader is also fighting a court order that could reinstate almost 800 corruption charges against him.
Last month the chief whip of the ANC in parliament, Jackson Mthembu urged the entire leadership of the party including Zuma to resign over poor performance.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation on Tuesday slammed the recent state of political affairs in the country, likening it to witnessing “the wheels coming off the vehicle of our state.”
“We are reaping the results of a political trend of personalising matters of state around a single individual leader,” the organisation said in a statement.
“This in a constitutional democracy is to be deplored.”