South African president faces possible impeachment
South Africa | Watchdog agency report details continued corruption
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 11/04/16, 09:51 am
South Africa’s leading opposition party Thursday said it is pushing for a parliamentary vote to impeach President Jacob Zuma. The move comes after a state watchdog agency report released Wednesday detailed multiple cases of corruption within Zuma’s presidency.
The opposing Democratic Alliance said it had already begun the impeachment process and the motion will be debated next week in the National Assembly. Opposition leader Mmusi Maimane said the Democratic Alliance would lobby members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), who voted against a similar impeachment vote in April.
Zuma faced renewed calls to step down Wednesday after the release of the 355-page report authored by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. The report, called “State of Capture,” focused on Zuma’s relationship with the Guptas, an Indian immigrant family accused of meddling in political decisions for personal benefits.
The report said financial analysis suggests a Gupta-owned mining company was awarded profitable government projects to finance its expansion. Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, holds significant shares in the business.
In one section of the report, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said one of the Gupta brothers, Ajay, offered him the post of the finance minister along with a $44 million bank deposit and $44,100 in cash in Zuma’s presence. The report said Zuma and Jonas’ phone records placed them at the Gupta’s residence at the time of the reported offer, but Zuma has denied the allegation.
“Consequently the people of South Africa, who Deputy Minister Jonas took into his confidence in revealing this, would lose faith in open, democratic, and accountable government if President Zuma’s denials are proven to be false,” the report said.
The watchdog agency said it lacked the resources to make concrete conclusions, but recommended a judicial commission investigate the allegations and publish its findings within 180 days.
The revelations triggered mass protests across the country as thousands came out asking for Zuma to step down. Business executives, religious leaders, and several others gathered in a Pretoria cathedral demanding Zuma’s resignation. On nearby streets, Democratic Alliance and another opposition party, Economic Freedom Fighters, also held their own protests.
Zuma has faced several bouts of scandal. In March, the Constitutional Court ordered him to repay some of the $16 million of state money he spent renovating one of his homes. But the latest report comes at a more crucial time. More ANC members have publicly spoken against the president. Prior to the report’s release, Zuma and some of his associates delayed the process with a court bid. On Wednesday, the presidency withdrew the bid and later said in a statement it had done so “in the interests of justice.”
The Nelson Mandela Foundation, run by colleagues of South Africa’s first black president, said in a statement this week that Zuma has “failed the test” of leadership and should be fired.
“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,” the statement said. “We join the call for a national convention of stakeholders to begin to reimagine South Africa’s future beyond the unsustainable stresses of the moment.”