Johannesburg: The youth wing of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) issued a call to arms on Saturday in defence of South African President Jacob Zuma as his finance minister fought back in a fraud case involving an Indian business family linked to the scandal-tainted leader.
Zuma has been under pressure over persistent allegations the powerful Gupta family held undue political sway over him to the extent it could even nominate a cabinet minister.
South Africa’s anticorruption watchdog upped the ante on Friday in urging the prompt release of a potentially explosive report into the allegations after Zuma launched a court action as a delaying tactic.
Fighting his own corner having repeatedly clashed with Zuma loyalists, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan dubbed several transactions made by Gupta-linked companies “suspicious” in court papers seen on Saturday by AFP.
The leader of ANC’s youth league promptly urged its supporters to take up arms to support Zuma and to “defend the revolution.”
“Comrades from Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), bring your guns. Now is the time to defend the revolution. We must do it,” Collen Mainee told Zuma supporters in Durban.
“Jacob Zuma is surrounded by snakes in the ANC … We won’t allow anybody to bring Zuma down,” Maine vowed.
‘Hands off Zuma’
South Africa’s News24 broadcaster said some 4,000 people brandishing “hands off Zuma” banners joined Saturday’s rally.
The delayed report into the allegations against Zuma are set for release on November 1 under new Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who took over on Saturday after Thuli Madonsela’s seven-year mandate expired.
Zuma has denied any abuse of influence emanating from his links with the Gupta family, to whom he admits he is close.
But those links and myriad allegations of corruption have been sapping his authority.
In August, the ANC suffered its worst showing in local elections since it first came to power after the end of apartheid two decades ago. The polls saw the opposition Democratic Alliance win key municipalities, notably Pretoria and Port Elizabeth.
Gordhan filed court papers on Thursday containing details of exchanges he had with South Africa’s Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) regarding transactions made by firms linked to Gupta over the past four years and valued at 6.8 billion rand (Dh1.7 billion), which the FIC dubbed “suspicious”.
The correspondence followed a decision major South African banks took in April to close the accounts of firms linked to the Guptas.
Gordhan, appointed last December, has won praise from the financial world for his stewardship of the economy but has clashed with Zuma over the running of several state enterprises amid allegations of widespread public sector graft.
The Gupta family have come under the microscope over reports they wield influence over the appointment of heads of state-run firms as well as some cabinet appointments.
Those allegations gained credence in Gordhan correspondence purportedly showing that Gupta representatives had asked him to lean on the banks to reopen the accounts they had closed.
In his court filing Gordhan said the law did not allow a government to give such an undertaking.
Gordhan himself stands accused of creating a “rogue” tax surveillance unit in the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) he ran for a decade before his first stint as finance minister from 2009 to 2014.
He is also accused of misconduct involving cheating the state out of 1.1 million rand over a retirement package paid to a colleague in 2010.
Gordhan insists the allegations against him are politically motivated.