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South African court orders Zuma to set up influence-peddling inquiry

South Africa

South Africa’s High Court has ruled that President Jacob Zuma, under fire for alleged corruption, must set up a judicial inquiry into state influence-peddling within 30 days.

In the latest in a series of judicial blows to Zuma’s scandal-tinged administration, the court upheld recommendations by South Africa’s anti-graft watchdog calling for an inquiry.

Zuma had challenged the move, saying it was his prerogative whether to set up such an inquiry. He challenged the right of the report’s author to call for a judicial inquiry and the appointment by the chief justice of a judge to head it.

High Court Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said Zuma’s application against the inquiry was “ill-advised and reckless” and an abuse of the judicial process.

‘‘The president shall take all steps, do all things and sign all documents which are necessary to give effect to the remedial action. Without limiting the generality of the forgoing the president shall ensure that the judge who is to head the commission of inquiry is given the power to appoint his or her own staff and to investigate all the issues using the record of the public protector’s investigation and the State of Capture report as a starting point.’‘

It was not immediately clear if Zuma this latest court indictment.

Zuma has survived several votes of no-confidence and is fighting off nearly 800 counts of alleged corruption relating to an arms deal.

The ruling African National Congress will choose its new leader, to replace embattled Jacob Zuma over the weekend.

The influence-peddling inquiry was recommended in a report released a year ago by the Public Protector, the country’s anti-graft agency. Zuma also sought to block the report’s release.

The report focused on allegations that Zuma’s friends, the businessmen and brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, had influenced the appointment of ministers. Zuma and the Guptas have denied all accusations of wrongdoing.

Ordering Zuma to pay the costs of the latest court challenge, Mlambo said the president’s conduct was “clearly objectionable … and amounts to clear abuse of the judicial process”.

On Friday, the same court ruled that Zuma’s appointment of a state prosecutor was not valid and should be set aside immediately. Zuma is appealing that ruling.

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