Zuma Seeks Witness List in S. Africa Gupta-Influence Probe

  • Probe may be finished after public protector’s term ends: Zuma
  • Graft ombudsman investigating Guptas’ alleged state influence

Jacob Zuma

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

South African President Jacob Zuma has requested permission to question witnesses and the opportunity to present his evidence in the investigation by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela into the alleged involvement of the Gupta family in government affairs.

“President Zuma is still of the view that he must be provided with the list of witnesses who appeared before the Public Protector, statements and/or affidavits as well as transcripts of any oral testimony tendered in this investigation,” Zuma’s spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.

Madonsela said in a later statement that Zuma has canceled two earlier meetings and has been afforded an opportunity to respond since March 22. He has now been asked to submit questions that will be put to witnesses.

Zuma “has on two occasions undertaken to answer questions and when the time arose, he changed his mind,” Madonsela said.

The probe relates to the dismissal and appointment of cabinet ministers and board members and directors of state-owned companies and possibly corrupt influence in the awarding of state contracts and licenses to companies linked to the family, according the public protector’s office.

Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said in March that the Guptas, who are in business with Zuma’s son, offered him the post of finance minister before Nhlanhla Nene was fired from the position in December. The controversy around the family prompted the nation’s largest banks to close accounts belonging to companies owned by the Guptas. Both Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.

Zuma agreed in an Oct. 6 meeting with Madonsela to answer a set of questions through an affidavit. He described the public protector saying that she’s in a “hurry” to complete the investigation as “ill-founded.” Madonsela’s seven-year term ends on Oct. 15.

The investigation “may well be completed after the term of the current public protector, as is the case with other pending investigations,” Ngqulunga said.

The country’s top court ruled in March that Zuma had violated the constitution for failing to abide by Madonsela’s finding that the president should repay taxpayer money spent on upgrading his private residence.

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