South African graft accusations expose split in ANC

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of various opposition parties join a march calling for the removal of President Jacob Zuma at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, South Africa, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

The ruling African National Congress said on Friday it is gravely concerned by leaked documents alleging influence-peddling by friends of President Jacob Zuma, deepening a divide in South Africa’s ruling party over its leader.

Some South African media reported on Thursday they had access to over 100,000 leaked documents and emails that showed improper dealings in lucrative government contracts by business friends of Zuma.

The latest allegations of influence-peddling may deepen divisions in the ANC as faction’s battle for control ahead of a party conference in December where a successor to the beleaguered, scandal-plagued Zuma will be chosen. Zuma can remain as head of state until an election in 2019.

Zuma and the Gupta family, wealthy Indian-born businessmen whose companies have contracts with state-owned firms, have not commented but have denied similar allegations in the past. Reuters could not independently verify the new allegations.

“These reports contain very worrying claims about the nature of the relationship between government and private interests,” the ANC said in a statement, calling on government to urgently establish the veracity of the leaks.

“The ANC views these allegations in a very serious light as, if left unattended, they call into question the integrity and credibility of the government.”

The statement appeared to contradict Zuma, who said at a parliamentary session on Thursday that he was not interested in “hearsay” published in newspapers.

A backroom schism in the ANC over Zuma has burst into the open in recent weeks as his opponents seek to oust him or ensure his chosen candidate does not take over the reins.

Analysts say Zuma’s camp will back his ex-wife and former African Union chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in December, while another faction will support Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

 

Zainab Sa’id