Leader faces in­creas­ing calls to re­sign

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Thou­sands of South Africans demon­strated on Wed­nes­day for the res­ig­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, who has been en­meshed in scan­dals that crit­ics say are un­der­min­ing the coun­try’s democ­racy.

The protests in the ad­min­is­tra­tive cap­i­tal of Pre­to­ria came as op­po­si­tion lawyers ar­gued in court for the prompt re­lease of a state watch­dog re­port about al­le­ga­tions that a busi­ness fam­ily linked to Zuma sought to in­flu­ence some Cab­i­net post se­lec­tions to ben­e­fit its own busi­ness in­ter­ests. The pres­i­dent has with­drawn a bid to block the re­lease of the re­port, said his lawyer, Anthea Platt.

The pos­si­bil­ity of new rev­e­la­tions of al­leged wrong­do­ing at top lev­els of the South African gov­ern­ment is likely to in­crease pres­sure on Zuma, who apol­o­gized ear­lier this year af­ter the Con­sti­tu­tional Court said he flouted the con­sti­tu­tion in a scan­dal over more than $20 mil­lion in state funds used to up­grade his ru­ral home. Zuma even­tu­ally paid back more than $500,000, an amount de­ter­mined by the na­tional trea­sury.

In a sep­a­rate scan­dal, the direc­tor of the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Au­thor­ity this week dropped fraud charges against Fi­nance Minister Pravin Gord­han fol­low­ing an out­cry by South Africans who sus­pected the move to pros­e­cute Gord­han was an at­tempt by gov­ern­ment fac­tions to take con­trol of the na­tional trea­sury.

On Wed­nes­day, busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives, re­li­gious lead­ers and others gath­ered in a Pre­to­ria cathe­dral to demand that Zuma quit. They said al­leged cor­rup­tion linked to the pres­i­dent was un­der­min­ing one of Africa’s big­gest economies, which is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing weak growth, as well as a con­sti­tu­tion that was crafted af­ter the end of white mi­nor­ity rule in 1994.

“It is not pos­si­ble to turn the sit­u­a­tion around” as long as Zuma re­mains pres­i­dent, said Sipho Pityana of Save South Africa, a coali­tion of groups that say they seek to pro­tect the con­sti­tu­tion.

Sep­a­rate ral­lies were also held in Pre­to­ria by South Africa’s two big­gest op­po­si­tion par­ties, the Demo­cratic Al­liance and the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers. The rul­ing African Na­tional Congress party, which took power af­ter the end of apartheid, lost sev­eral key mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in local elec­tions in Au­gust, partly be­cause of public dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the pres­i­dent.

Zuma has not com­mented this week on grow­ing calls for his ouster. He is sched­uled to chair a fo­rum in Harare on Thurs­day with Zim­bab­wean Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe.

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