S.Africa’s Zuma under pressure in new graft scandal

March 17, 2016 4:05 pm
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Thousands of opposition Economic Freedom Fighter supporters protest over public money spent on South African President Jacob Zuma's private house, in Johannesburg on February 9, 2016/AFP
Thousands of opposition Economic Freedom Fighter supporters protest over public money spent on South African President Jacob Zuma’s private house, in Johannesburg on February 9, 2016/AFP

, CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Mar 17 – Shock revelations about a wealthy Indian family’s interference in South African government affairs set embattled President Jacob Zuma up for a high-pressure appearance in parliament Thursday.

The admission by deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas that he was offered the top job in the treasury by the Gupta family caused outrage in a country already alarmed by a series of corruption scandals.

The Gupta brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh were smalltime businessmen back home but have built up a string of companies with interests in computers, mining, media and engineering since moving to South Africa in the 1990s.

Overview
  • Jonas said he received a threatening text message while he was preparing his statement exposing the job offer by the Guptas, the Business Day reported.
  • In his statement on Wednesday, Jonas said: "Members of the Gupta family offered me the position of Minister of Finance to replace then-minister Nene. I rejected this out of hand."

They have long been accused of wielding undue influence over Zuma, whose son Duduzane is a partner in some of their businesses. Zuma’s third wife also used to work for them.

Jonas said he received a threatening text message while he was preparing his statement exposing the job offer by the Guptas, the Business Day reported.

The newspaper quoted the message from an unnamed businessman as reading: “Please keep your own counsel. Martyrdom is best left to Christ.”

In his statement on Wednesday, Jonas said: “Members of the Gupta family offered me the position of Minister of Finance to replace then-minister Nene. I rejected this out of hand.”

The Guptas, who had attracted controversy a few years ago by flying in wedding guests at the Waterkloof air base which is normally reserved for visiting heads of state and diplomatic delegations, issued a statement denying Jonas’s claims.

But even the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has expressed concern about the graft allegations, amid speculation that the president’s position at the head of the party could be fatally weakened.

“We need to deal with this; it will degenerate into a mafia state if this goes on,” ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe told Bloomberg News.

“The fact we are talking about this so boldly now shows that things are going to change.”

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