South Africa's ANC Seeks Quick Process on State-Capture Probe

  • Delaying inquiry is costly for the ruling party, Mantashe says
  • ANC will elect new leaders at a conference in December

South African ruling party African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe.

Photographer: Gulshan Khan/AFP via Getty Images

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress wants an inquiry into allegations of undue influence on state officials by the Gupta family and private business to move quickly to limit damage to the party’s reputation.

“It must move as fast as possible so that we don’t stay with this hanging in the air for a long time because the longer it stays, the more costly it is for the ANC,” the party’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, told reporters in Johannesburg on Wednesday. “We must have a broader commission that doesn’t only focus on one family.”

The Gupta family is friends with President Jacob Zuma, 75, and in business with his son. The country’s graft ombudsman released a report on Nov. 2 that implied Zuma may have let members of the family influence cabinet appointments. The report recommended a judicial commission be set up to determine the extent of wrongdoing due to state capture, the term used in South Africa to describe allowing private business interests to influence the government. The ANC wants the inquest to be broad enough to uncover the influence of all business on state affairs.

Last week the ANC called on the government to investigate the veracity of thousands of leaked emails that allegedly show that members of the Gupta family exerted undue influence over Zuma’s administration and state companies.

“The information that is coming out is quite damaging to the ANC as a consequence,” Mantashe said “Many of the people who are cited there as Gupta beneficiaries are leaders of the ANC, so we are paying the price for that.”

Zuma survived a second bid to oust him as party leader in six months on May 28 after some members of the national executive committee, the ANC’s highest decision-making body, two weeks ago called for him to step down. Opposition to Zuma’s rule mounted after he fired former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on March 31. The move prompted S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings Ltd. to downgrade the nation’s debt to junk.

Mantashe said despite mounting calls for Zuma to step down, it’s difficult to remove an ANC president because it can only be done through a special congress. The new leader elected in December will lead the party’s electoral campaign in 2019, he said.

“That is a very important milestone because beyond that point many things are possible,” Mantashe said. “Beyond December we don’t know what will happen.”

Calls for Zuma’s early departure have been fueled by a series of scandals, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he violated his oath of office when he ignored a graft ombudsman’s directive to repay taxpayer funds spent on his private home. He later paid for some of the costs incurred for non-security upgrades as ordered by the court.

Under Zuma’s leadership, economic growth in Africa’s most-industrialized economy has slowed and unemployment soared to a 14-year high. The country’s economy slipped into recession for the first time since 2009 after it contracted for a second consecutive quarter in the three months through March.

“There’s a whole range of things that have been impacting on the economy,” Enoch Godongwana, the head of the ANC’s economic policy committee, said Wednesday. “The challenge has been on the policy front, something which we are beginning to address.”

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