South Africa’s anti-graft watchdog has deferred release of a report into allegations of political interference by wealthy friends of Jacob Zuma in a move critics of the president fear could lead to a watering down of its conclusions.
A court application by Zuma had obliged Thuli Madonsela, head of the agency that has spearheaded investigation of alleged involvement of an Indian-born family into political affairs, to delay release of the report that had been due on Friday – her last day in office. The court will now hear Zuma’s case on Tuesday for more time to review details and question witnesses.
“Agreement in court requires us to wait for Tuesday,” Madonsela told Reuters.
Madonsela has called a news conference for later in the day after publishing a list of 23 cases on which she would report.
The list did not mention the Gupta family at the center of the investigation into whether top political decisions, including cabinet appointments, have been unduly influenced.
Both the family, which has wide-ranging business interests in South Africa, and the president have denied any wrongdoing.
Zuma applied for that order on Thursday on the grounds that he had not had the chance to question witnesses and review any evidence that implicated him.
The ruling party said earlier on Friday it supported the release of the report despite the court bid by Zuma to block it.
Zizi Kodwa, spokesman for Zuma’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), told eNCA television news the party was in favor of Madonsela releasing her findings, including information on the Guptas.
Critics of Zuma say they fear that the delay in the report could be further extended and its content diminished with the end of Madonsela’s tenure.
The claims of undue influence have become known as “state capture”.
“From our point of view, we are looking forward to the report because the allegations of corporate state capture are very serious,” Kodwa told the broadcaster in an interview.
“For us whether it is today, or any other day, we are looking forward to the release of the report.”
Kodwa said he was not surprised that Zuma had sought a court order to block the report, as that was his right.
On Friday, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen also filed a court application to block the release of the report.
(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Joe Brock; Writing by James Macharia; editing by Ralph Boulton)