South Africa: Jacob Zuma blocks report on corruption

Court delays publication of inquiry into influence of Gupta brothers in government

South African public protector Thuli Madonsela:  planned to release findings  on her last day in  office. Photograph: EPA/STR

South African public protector Thuli Madonsela: planned to release findings on her last day in office. Photograph: EPA/STR

 

A South African judge has ordered that the findings of an investigation into state capture by private interests be preserved and protected until Tuesday, when President Jacob Zuma and a government minister will oppose its release in court.

Public protector Thuli Madonsela was on Friday set to publish the findings of her investigation into whether the Gupta brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – had undue influence in government, as part of a glut of work she was finalising on her last day in office.

However, hours before the report was to be made public it emerged that Mr Zuma and co-operative governance minister Des Van Rooyen had approached the court to interdict the document’s release.

Mr Van Rooyen objected to the report’s publication, saying he was only given 24 hours to respond to “adverse findings” that related to him‚ while Mr Zuma said he needed more time to respond to the public protector’s question.

Shock appointment

Mr Van Rooyen was appointed minister for finance by Mr Zuma last December after the latter unexpectedly sacked the well-respected Nhlanla Nene from the post. The move sent the local currency into freefall and wiped billions of rand off the value of the Johannesburg stock exchange.

Such was the development’s adverse effect on the local economy that the little-known Mr Van Rooyen was moved to the co-operative governance ministry after four days in office. He was replaced by current finance minister Pravin Gordhan in a bid to appease the markets.

Suspicions began to circulate that Mr Nene’s sacking was preordained by the Gupta brothers when his second in command, Mcebisi Jonas, publicly stated in March he was offered the ministry of finance’s top job by a member of the Gupta family three weeks before his boss was fired.

The scandal prompted opposition parties to make an application to the public protector to investigate the matter and the wider issue of state capture by private interests.

Among the court papers submitted by Mr Van Rooyen’s legal team on Friday were questions he received from the public protector that outline the allegations against him and the Gupta family.

They include the allegation that after being appointed finance minister, Mr Van Rooyen attended the national treasury with two Gupta-aligned advisers he had appointed without due procedure, who sought details on state-owned enterprise deals they were not entitled to.

Mr Van Rooyen did not deny that he appointed the two advisers, but said he did not know whether they were aligned to the Gupta family as claimed.