South Africa’s Zuma de­fi­ant as chal­lenges to power mount.

Email leaks, poor econ­omy spur re­volt

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GE­OFF HILL — The ar­ti­cle was based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA | Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma is fac­ing a grow­ing chal­lenge to his eight-year rule, with calls for im­peach­ment grow­ing as one­time sup­port­ers desert him and a stash of leaked emails raises fresh doubts he will be able to serve out the fi­nal two years of his cur­rent term.

The 75-year-old head of the African Na­tional Congress, and only the fourth pres­i­dent since the end of apartheid, finds him­self the tar­get of charges that his gov­ern­ment is be­ing se­cretly in­flu­enced by busi­ness­peo­ple close to the first fam­ily.

Now lo­cal news­pa­pers have pub­lished dozens of emails re­lat­ing to mem­bers of the In­dian-born Gupta fam­ily and their busi­ness em­pire, which ap­pears to wind its way through sev­eral gov­ern­ment de­part­ments. The three broth­ers, Ajay, Atul and Tony, moved to South Africa in 1993.

The emails — and pa­pers pre­sented to par­lia­ment by op­po­nents of Mr. Zuma — sug­gest the Gup­tas met fre­quently with Cabinet min­is­ters, heads of gov­ern­men­towned firms and the pres­i­dent him­self, ap­par­ently ob­tain­ing fa­vor­able state sup­ply con­tracts to the state and even a say in the ap­point­ment of min­is­ters.

Even Mr. Zuma’s vice pres­i­dent, Cyril Ramaphosa, has now backed a com­mis­sion of in­quiry into state cap­ture, the Gupta fam­ily and al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion.

Un­der the con­sti­tu­tion, Mr. Zuma must step down be­fore the 2019 elec­tions af­ter serv­ing two terms, and a spe­cial meet­ing of the rul­ing ANC will be held in De­cem­ber to name his suc­ces­sor as head of the party.

Opin­ion polls show Mr. Ramaphosa, him­self a wealthy busi­ness­man and head of the McDon­ald’s fran­chise net­work in South Africa, as the fa­vored can­di­date. His ri­val is the pres­i­dent’s for­mer wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who, un­til Jan­uary of this year, served as chair of the African Union.

But there is spec­u­la­tion the ANC might re­move Mr. Zuma in De­cem­ber, choos­ing some­one else to steer both the party and the coun­try for the rest of his sec­ond term.

Out­wardly at least, Mr. Zuma ex­udes con­fi­dence that he can with­stand the crit­i­cism, even laugh­ing dis­mis­sively in par­lia­men­tary de­bate Thurs­day when op­po­si­tion lead­ers ex­co­ri­ated his record and his han­dling of the re­ces­sion­wracked econ­omy.

“I’m fit and I’m do­ing [my job] as well,” Mr. Zuma said, ridi­cul­ing an op­po­si­tion de­mand for a se­cret bal­lot on a no-con­fi­dence mea­sure in the gov­ern­ment. Op­po­si­tion lead­ers ar­gue that even some of Mr. Zuma’s ANC mem­bers would vote against him in a se­cret vote, and South Africa’s high court ruled ear­lier this week that the se­cret bal­lot was le­git­i­mate if law­mak­ers them­selves agreed to it.

“Why are you try­ing to get a ma­jor­ity you don’t have by say­ing ‘se­cret bal­lot’?” Mr. Zuma added. “Let us vote the way we have been vot­ing all the time.”

Mmusi Maimane, head of the op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Al­liance, cited the cor­rup­tion and eco­nomic mis­man­age­ment that has left South Africa’s youth unem­ploy­ment rate at over 27 per­cent.

“Your pres­i­dency has failed South Africa’s youth,” Mr. Maimane said, ac­cord­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press. At lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions last year, the ANC suf­fered its worst de­feat since com­ing to power un­der the late Nel­son Man­dela in 1994, los­ing con­trol of both the na­tional cap­i­tal, Pre­to­ria, and the largest city, Johannesburg.

In March Mr. Zuma re­placed the pop­u­lar fi­nance min­is­ter, Pravin Gord­han, with one of his clos­est al­lies, Malusi Gi­gaba, who was for­merly min­is­ter for home af­fairs, the de­part­ment re­spon­si­ble for pass­ports and cit­i­zen­ship. Mr. Gord­han had re­cently warned against cor­rup­tion and un­due in­flu­ence within the pres­i­den­tial palace.

One of the leaked emails sug­gested that while he was home min­is­ter, Mr. Gi­gaba per­son­ally ap­proved cit­i­zen­ship for the Gupta broth­ers af­ter their re­quest had been de­clined by of­fi­cials.

This week, mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion, but also a num­ber of law­mak­ers within the ANC, have de­manded that Mr. Gi­gaba an­swer ques­tions in Par­lia­ment on the mat­ter.

Since tak­ing of­fice in 2009, al­le­ga­tions of wrong­do­ing have dogged the pres­i­dent, in­clud­ing the ex­pense of al­most $20 mil­lion in state funds to ren­o­vate his fam­ily home. Mr. Zuma was forced by the courts to pay back some of the money.

Un­der pres­sure from within the ANC, the pres­i­dent has agreed to an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion of in­quiry into cap­ture or un­due con­trol of the state, the Gupta fam­ily and gov­ern­ment con­tracts that may have been in­flu­enced by cabinet.

Pre­vi­ous at­tempts to re­move Mr. Zuma from of­fice have been tabled by the op­po­si­tion in par­lia­ment, only to be de­feated along party lines.

Now, an­a­lysts say, the party it­self may be los­ing pa­tience with its leader amid fears that scandal, tales of cor­rup­tion and an on­go­ing slide in sup­port could see the ANC voted out of power in two years’ time.

Still, Mr. Zuma sounded Thurs­day like a man still con­fi­dent his base was hold­ing.

“The ANC elected me to be pres­i­dent,” he said. “The day the ANC thinks I can’t be pres­i­dent, it will re­move me.”


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