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South Africa’s Zuma backs minister over graft charges

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 Jacob Zuma. / AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH

Jacob Zuma. / AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH

South African President Jacob Zuma said Tuesday he supported Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan who is due in court next week on criminal charges widely seen as politically-motivated.

Gordhan, a respected veteran of the ruling ANC party, will appear in court on November 2 on charges dating back to 2010 over a colleague’s retirement package.

Many analysts say he has been targeted by Zuma loyalists in the increasingly fractured ANC.

The charges “against the minister of finance are a concern to all of us, including the investor communities,” Zuma told lawmakers.

“As cabinet we have expressed our full support of the minister.”

The president said that Gordhan “was innocent until found guilty”.

The finance minister has been a vocal opponent of corruption and excessive spending by Zuma’s government, which has been hit by a series of graft scandals and slowing economic growth.

Gordhan’s cause has also attracted backing from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, some ministers and scores of business leaders.

Zuma said he had not acted to stop the prosecution of Gordhan because interfering would drive the country “closer to a banana republic”.

Zuma also defended himself after he blocked the release of a watchdog’s potentially explosive report into corruption allegations against him.

He said he had not been given the opportunity to respond to allegations.



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