Zuma allies’ home raided and no-confidence vote announced

ANC efforts to oust South Africa’s president intensify”/>Raid on Gupta family comes as ANC efforts to oust South Africa’s president intensify

South African police raid the Gupta family compound in Johannesburg

South African police raid the Gupta family compound in Johannesburg.
Photograph: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

An elite South African police team has raided the luxurious home of a family of controversial businessmen accused of improper relations with Jacob Zuma, as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party continues its chaotic efforts to oust the country’s president.

The raid on the compound of the wealthy Gupta family in Johannesburg came as the ANC said a vote of no confidence in Zuma would be held on Thursday. It will be taken as an encouraging sign that Cyril Ramaphosa, the new ANC leader, will move swiftly against those associated with the corruption allegations and mismanagement that have characterised Zuma’s nine years in power.

Hangwani Mulaudzi, a spokesman for the police unit known as the Hawks, said the raid was part of an investigation into allegations of influence-peddling in the government.


Who are the Guptas and why are they controversial?

The Guptas are a family of businessmen who have become symbols of the malpractice and mismanagement seen as characterising the nine-year rule of the South African president, Jacob Zuma.

Brothers Atul, Ajay and Tony Gupta emigrated from India in 1993 seeking business opportunities in post-apartheid South Africa, and built a conglomerate with an annual turnover of more than $20m.

Their Johannesburg home, in the plush Saxonwold neighbourhood, is worth several million dollars. They own a number of other properties and travel in a private jet with their own chef.

The Guptas’ close relationship with Zuma became clear in 2013 when they flew hundreds of guests to a wedding near Johannesburg and were allowed to use a military airbase instead of the usual civilian facilities. One of Zuma’s sons was a business partner of the Guptas.

Allegations of impropriety have stacked up:

• A report by a corruption watchdog into alleged influence-peddling accuses the family of “state capture” –  a process by which the country’s institutions and top officials are corrupted by outsiders

• The deputy finance minister said in 2016 that a family member had offered to promote him to the minister’s post 

• More than 100,000 documents and emails leaked to reporters last year appear to detail improper dealings in lucrative government contracts made with the Guptas

• There is also an inquiry into a huge dairy farm run by a Gupta company with $18m of public funds

The Guptas and Zuma deny any wrongdoing.

“We’re viewing this investigation in a very serious light. We’re not playing around in terms of making sure that those who are responsible in the so-called state capture, they take responsibility for it,” Mulaudzi said.

The Guptas are accused of “state capture” by the public prosecutor, a constitutionally appointed independent anti-corruption watchdog that coined the phrase to describe how the family has allegedly used its friendship with Zuma to influence ministerial appointments, secure multimillion-dollar government contracts and gain access to inside information. The Guptas and Zuma deny any wrongdoing.

A police officer at the compound blocked access to the street in the upmarket suburb of Saxonwold, saying: “This is a crime scene.”

Another raid in Johannesburg targeted the home of the managing director of one of the principal companies owned and run by the Guptas.

Three arrests had been made and two other suspects were expected to hand themselves in, police said, adding that operations across the city were ongoing.

South Africa was pitched into political crisis when the ANC admitted on Monday that Zuma had defied its orders to resign, and that it had little idea of when the 75-year-old head of state would respond to its demand to leave office.

Jackson Mthembu, the ANC’s chief whip, said parliament would vote on a no-confidence motion on Thursday. “We would like to create certainty … to help people [who are] guessing what we are going to do next,” he said after a meeting of ANC lawmakers.

The ANC has a majority in parliament and opposition parties will not support Zuma. According to the constitution, the president and the cabinet must resign if the no-confidence motion passes.

Mthembu suggested that an election for a new president, who is selected by representatives in parliament, could occur immediately after the no-confidence vote if the chief justice, who has to preside, is available.

This raises the possibility that Ramaphosa, who is deputy president, could replace Zuma by the weekend or even earlier.

Shortly after news of the no confidence vote broke, Zuma summoned state broadcasters and gave a rambling TV interview, saying he felt his treatment was “unfair”.

“No one has given me a reason for why they want me to resign,” he said. “The [ANC] leadership, just two months after being elected, they are only focused on my exit. People have been saying [Zuma must go] for years but they never give reasons. So why should I go now?”

Zuma added that he had not defied the ANC’s call for him to step down, but had disagreed with it. “I think it is baseless,” he said. “In the ANC you have to be convinced with facts. This has been done in a manner that I feel I am being victimised.”

The failure to immediately force out Zuma, who faces a range of corruption charges and has become an electoral liability, has angered many South Africans. The raid on the home of the Guptas will go some way towards restoring the sense of optimism prompted by Ramaphosa’s election as party leader in December.

Zuma’s tumultuous nine years in power have undermined the image and legitimacy of the party that led South Africans to freedom from apartheid in 1994, but the former activist retains significant support inside the ANC and at a local level in many parts of South Africa.

Analysts have described the crisis as “a battle for the soul of the ANC” and “a referendum on the true balance of power within the party”.


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