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South Africans protest against Zuma


South Africans protest against Zuma

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PRETORIA – South Africa’s anti-graft watchdog called for a judge to investigate allegations of influence peddling in President Jacob Zuma’s government, in a report released on Wednesday as thousands of protesters called for the president to step down.

The 355-page report, titled State of Capture, stopped short of reaching conclusive findings, but is likely to add to pressure on Zuma by demanding a full inquiry within 30 days into the biggest crisis of his scandal-plagued presidency.

The report was finally released after the president withdrew a court bid earlier on Wednesday that had sought to delay its publication.

Police fired stun grenades and used water cannon to disperse demonstrators who had marched to the Union Buildings, where Zuma’s offices are located. Outside the High Court, protesters carried “Zuma must go” placards.

Zuma denies providing special favours for wealthy friends, including three brothers who run a business empire from media to mining and who also deny wrongdoing.

The carefully-worded report stopped short of asserting that crimes had been committed, saying the watchdog lacked the resources to reach such conclusions.

It focused on allegations that the brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, influenced the appointment of ministers, and called for an investigation into whether Zuma, some of his cabinet members and some state companies acted improperly.

In one case it cited :extraordinary and unprecedented” government intervention in a private business dispute involving Zuma’s friends and his son. This, it said, may have created “a possible conflict of interest between the President as head of state and his private interest as a friend and father”.

The affair has rattled markets in Africa’s most industrialised economy, which faces the risk of ratings downgrades later this year. Divisions within the African National Congress (ANC) have widened since the ruling party suffered its worst-ever local election results in August.  (Reuters)