South African President Jacob Zuma said he would appoint a commission of inquiry into allegations that the Gupta family was allowed to influence state decisions and that he would abide by a court ruling for the Chief Justice to select its leader.
The High Court in December rejected Zuma’s arguments that he alone can set up the commission and ordered him to pay the cost of the case. While the president has appealed the cost order and the judgment regarding the duties of the president to appoint commissions, he said in a statement on Tuesday he is taking further legal advice on this.
“I am concerned that this matter has occupied the public mind for some time now and deserves urgent attention,” Zuma said. “The allegations that the state has been wrestled out of the hands of its real owners, the people of South Africa, is of paramount importance and are therefore deserving of finality and certainty.”
Zuma’s about-turn comes a day before the new top leadership of the ruling African National Congress meets for the first time on Wednesday. A proposal to order Zuma to step down before his term ends in 2019 will be discussed at the gathering in the city of East London, according to three people who spoke on condition of anonymity. Zuma’s scandal-tainted tenure has eroded support for the ANC and he lost control of the party to his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, at an elective conference last month.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said in November 2016 that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng should appoint the head of the inquiry because the president had a conflict of interest. Mogoeng has selected Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, Zuma said on Tuesday. Zuma didn’t say who the commission’s other members will be.
Madonsela had ordered the inquiry into allegations that the Guptas may have influenced the appointment of cabinet members in Zuma’s administration and received special treatment for a coal business linked to the family and one of the president’s sons. Zuma and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing.
“The commission is a step towards ridding the country of corruption, and must do its work without delay,” Mmusi Maimane, the head of the main opposition Democratic Alliance said in a statement. “It must be properly staffed, fully funded and free from any and all political inference.”