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South Africa watchdog calls for release of Zuma graft report

Outgoing South African Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela waves as she arrives for her last press briefing before leaving office at the Public Protector headquarter on October 14, 2016 in Pretoria. A potentially explosive report into corruption allegations against South African President Jacob Zuma will not be released on October 14, 2016 as expected, lawyers said during last-minute court proceedings. The investigation by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela was to be unveiled in Pretoria, one day before she steps down from a job in which she has regularly clashed with the president. Madonsela's report probed allegations that Zuma allowed the wealthy Gupta family to have undue influence over government, even having the power to nominate cabinet ministers. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Outgoing South African Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela waves as she arrives for her last press briefing before leaving office at the Public Protector headquarter on October 14, 2016 in Pretoria.<br />A potentially explosive report into corruption allegations against South African President Jacob Zuma will not be released on October 14, 2016 as expected, lawyers said during last-minute court proceedings. The investigation by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela was to be unveiled in Pretoria, one day before she steps down from a job in which she has regularly clashed with the president. Madonsela’s report probed allegations that Zuma allowed the wealthy Gupta family to have undue influence over government, even having the power to nominate cabinet ministers. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog called Friday for her report into graft allegations against President Jacob Zuma to be released as soon as possible after he blocked it with a legal challenge.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had been due to publish the report into accusations that Zuma allowed a business family to have undue influence over government and even to nominate cabinet ministers.

But the president on Thursday launched last-minute court action delaying the release, saying he had not had time to respond to questions about so-called “state capture” by the Gupta family.

“I disagree with those who say the ‘state capture’ investigation was not urgent,” Madonsela told reporters.

“This matter has created so much fracture in the executive and in the country, it was necessary for the investigation to be done and to be done fast so that any cloud is cleared.”

The potentially explosive report was expected to be released on Friday, the last day in office for Madonsela, who has regularly clashed with the president.

Zuma, 74, has survived a series of damaging scandals, but has faced increasing criticism as the economy stalls and after the ruling ANC party suffered unprecedented losses in local polls.

Madonsela said her report had been completed and handed to the parliamentary Speaker “for safe-keeping” pending a court hearing next month.

“Just because sometimes we deal with underhand people, it doesn’t mean we also have to be underhanded,” she said, adding she was not directly referring to Zuma.

– Corruption buster –
Madonsela declined to comment on new reports that ANC lawmaker David van Rooyen had met the Guptas the night before his appointment as finance minister in December.

Van Rooyen replaced the widely-respected Nhlanhla Nene, but was removed from the job after only four days, following a market plunge and political outrage.

Under Madonsela, the Public Protector’s office has gained a reputation as a formidable corruption buster, handing down scathing findings against Zuma, state agencies and public companies.

Reflecting on her much-praised time in office, she said: “It is about finding the truth and telling it the best you know how in an effort to help the government treat its people properly.”

In 2014, she dealt a major blow to Zuma in a report that found he had “unduly benefited” from the refurbishment of his Nkandla rural home.

Zuma fought the case until being berated by the Constitutional Court and ordered to pay back public money spent on upgrades including a chicken coop and a swimming pool.

After serving her seven-year term, Madonsela has been replaced by Busisiwe Mkhwebane, a home ministry official.

Zuma endured another bout of criticism this week after Pravin Gordhan, who took over as finance minister from van Rooyen, was summoned to court on separate graft charges.

Gordhan, a vocal campaigner against corruption within the government, has alleged that the case against him is politically motivated.


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