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South Africa’s Zuma under pressure over Gupta links and poor business environment

By Reuters and The Africa Report
Posted on Wednesday, 5 October 2016 10:27

The Gupta family became household names in South Africa after Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas dropped a political bombshell earlier this year when he said they offered to secure him his boss’s job.

Zuma says the Guptas are his friends but denies they have influenced political appointments.

“We will hear his version of events and he may have information for us that we will need to consider against our own findings,” the public protector, Thuli Madonsela, told Business Day in an interview published on Wednesday. Madonsela’s spokeswoman said she couldn’t immediately comment.

Presidency spokesman Bongani Majola confirmed the meeting would take place, probably on Thursday, Business Day said. Majola did not respond to a request for comment.

The Guptas, who moved to South Africa from India after apartheid fell in 1994, run businesses ranging from uranium and coal mining to media and information technology.

Madonsela has already interviewed Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, his predecessor, Nhlanhla Nene, and Jonas. She will interview at least 20 other top officials and members of Zuma’s cabinet, according to local media. Her report should be released by Oct. 14, her chief of staff told Reuters.

Madonsela, whose term as public protector ends this month, previously received public support in South Africa for taking Zuma to task over the spending of 240m rand ($17m) of state money on upgrading his private home.

She was vindicated in March when the Constitutional Court, the country’s highest court, said Zuma had breached the constitution by ignoring her recommendation that he repay some money that was spent on non-security upgrades. He has since handed back some of the funds.

Zuma is also facing strong criticism from the country’s business community. The chairman of AngloGold Ashanti called on Zuma to step down on Wednesday, labelling the South African leader the “sponsor in chief” of corruption.

Under Zuma’s watch, business confidence in South Africa has fallen to its lowest in three decades, reflecting uncertainty about the outlook for Africa’s most industrialised economy. The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (SACCI) announced on Wednesday that its monthly business index dipped to 90.3 in September from 92.9 in August, its worst showing since July 1985.

“The general overview of the demand side of the economy suggests a tight economic situation for all subjects of the economy, including consumers, investors and the public sector,” SACCI said.

“The most pressing of the present situation is the lack of confidence by notably investors.”

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