President Jacob Zuma abandoned a high court bid to halt the release of a graft ombudsman’s report into a wealthy family’s influence on his government as thousands of protesters joined demonstrations demanding an end to state corruption.
Zuma’s lawyer announced in Pretoria that he was abandoning his court case to block the publication of a report by the graft ombudsman on whether members of the Gupta family sought to influence the dismissal and appointment of cabinet ministers and awarding of state contracts and licences.
Nearby, executives of some of South Africa’s biggest companies joined protests against Zuma’s government, along with members of civil rights, religious groups, opposition parties and a number of prominent ANC members.
“I will be surprised if Zuma were to survive until January,” Prince Mashele, a political analyst at Pretoria-based Centre for Politics and Research, said by phone. “His days are numbered. South Africans will know the contents of the report and from the leaks that we have been seeing, this report is not full of roses for the president.”
Scandals have dogged Zuma in recent months, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he violated his oath of office by refusing to abide by a directive from the graft ombudsman to repay taxpayer money spent on upgrading his private home.
He’s also been locked in a battle for control of the national treasury with finance minister Pravin Gordhan — who was charged for fraud last month before prosecutors this week abandoned the case for lack of evidence.
“We have to come to terms with the fact that for as long as we have President Zuma as president of the country, it is not possible to turn the situation around,” Sipho Pityana, the chairman of gold producer AngloGold Ashanti and convener of Save South Africa, which organised Wednesday’s protest, told reporters in Pretoria. “We’ve told him that we believe he is no longer deserving to lead this country.”
The political upheaval has weighed on South Africa’s rand and bonds and raised the risk of the nation’s credit rating being downgraded to junk.
The rand strengthened as much as 1,4% against the dollar, and was at R13,47 by 11am in Johannesburg, erasing an earlier decline of as much as 0,5% and leading gains among 31 major and emerging market currencies tracked by Bloomberg.
“The importance of being here is to stand up and say what we stand for, which is the constitution and all the values enshrined in the constitution, as well as to say what we don’t like and what we don’t stand for, which is the inappropriate use of state institutions and corruption,” Standard Bank co-CEO Sim Tshabalala said in an interview.
The National Health and Allied Workers Union, an ANC ally with about 300 000 members, urged Zuma on Tuesday to take the “honourable and courageous decision” and step down before his current term ends in 2019 and for his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa to replace him.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union, National Union of Mineworkers and Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union are also set to call for Zuma’s resignation, Business Day reported Wednesday, citing union officials it didn’t identify.
Zuma, whose allies dominate the ANC’s leadership, has denied ever intentionally breaking the law and shrugged off calls to resign. Zuma shouldn’t shoulder the blame for the ANC’s failings and removing him won’t resolve South Africa’s problems, The New Age newspaper, which is part-owned by the Gupta family, reported Wednesday, citing ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe.
Cheryl Carolus, a former ANC leader, urged the party to act in the national interest and address the nation’s leadership void.
“Our county is in crisis,” she said. “We could have done a lot better if there was leadership. Our government and our ANC is missing in action.” — (c) 2016 Bloomberg LP
- Reported with assistance from Thembisile Augustine Dzonzi