The leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, on Sunday has reposed “its full confidence” in President Jacob Zuma, who is tainted by several corruption scandals.“The ANC continues to express its full confidence in our president,” said the press secretary of the party, Gwede Mantashe.
The question of whether Zuma should step down or not “was never raised” during a three-day meeting of the party founded by Nelson Mandela, hero of the struggle against apartheid.
Already weakened by several scandals, President Jacob Zuma, 73, was found again in controversy on March 17 in Parliament, accused of being under the influence of a large business family of Indian origin, who intervened for the allocation of ministerial posts.
On Wednesday, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas deepened the woes by claiming that the post of finance minister had been “suggested” to him by the Gupta family, who immediately denied.
Another member of the ruling party, Vytjie Mentor, also said he was approached by Gupta to take a ministerial portfolio, in exchange for favors for their businesses. This time it is the Presidency that denied it.
In the space of two decades, Gupta brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, arrived from India to South Africa in the 1990s when the apartheid regime fell and managed to build a powerful and vast empire in mining, media (a newspaper and a TV channel), computer science and engineering, becoming one of the richest families in the country.
Jacob Zuma openly defended his friendship with them, especially as several of his relatives work in their group. One of his son, Duduzane Zuma, is a director at Sahara Computers and is associated with several other companies owned by the Gupta family. The third wife of the President, Bongi Ngema, is also connected to the empire.
The Gupta brothers on Friday denounced “the xenophobic and hate” victimisation against them and the ANC, which is in session, has examined the allegations.
Mr Mantashe said the party had “frank and robust” discussions about Gupta and that “appropriate action” would be taken, however, without giving further details.
Mcebisi Jonas revelations seem to have highlighted a major split within the ANC and the attack of pro-Zuma and reformists led by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The ANC remains the main political force in South Africa, but the opposition will take advantage of the President’s setbacks in local elections this year, while anger is brewing over the lack of promotion of people of color and the economic difficulties of the country where unemployment exceeds 25%.