South African Opposition Appoints Top Officials to Zuma Probe

South Africa’s main opposition party named two parliamentary officials to a panel that will probe President Jacob Zuma’s response to misconduct allegations as it seeks to capitalize on the scandal before next month’s elections.

The Democratic Alliance appointed its parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, and executive committee chairman James Selfe to the panel, which must complete its work by April 30. Parliamentary Speaker Max Sisulu yesterday set up the committee of seven ruling African National Congress lawmakers and five opposition members.

“We must flex our muscles to force answers from all implicated parties in this matter, including President Zuma,” Mazibuko told reporters today in Cape Town. “It’s obviously very likely the ANC will try and whip its members into submission.”

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said in a March 19 report that Zuma improperly benefited from a state-funded 215 million rand ($21 million) home upgrade and failed to safeguard public resources. In an April 3 letter to Sisulu, Zuma said Madonsela and a ministerial team that investigated the project had “starkly” different findings. He also pledged to make a final report to Parliament once investigators complete another probe.

Mazibuko, who has called for Zuma’s impeachment, said Sisulu was legally obliged to recall Parliament from recess before the May 7 election to discuss the committee’s findings.

Impeachment Call

The ANC said in an e-mailed statement that the committee’s mandate was restricted and would have nothing to do with the impeachment call.

The ruling party will block any attempt to sanction Zuma, said Pierre de Vos, a law professor at the University of Cape Town. Madonsela’s recommendations that Zuma repay some of the money spent on his home “will never be implemented,” De Vos said by phone yesterday.

“The legislative framework assumes the president is never going to act in a way that is unethical or in breach of the law or of his duties,” he said. “This, as we’ve seen, was an over-optimistic assumption.”

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