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S. Africa Watchdog Unit Wants to Accelerate Zuma Probe

  • VOA Staff

South African President Jacob Zuma speaks at a Human Rights Day rally in Durban, South Africa, March 21, 2016. Zuma has denied allegations that the wealthy Gupta family wields undue influence on his government.

South African President Jacob Zuma speaks at a Human Rights Day rally in Durban, South Africa, March 21, 2016. Zuma has denied allegations that the wealthy Gupta family wields undue influence on his government.

South Africa's anti-corruption watchdog may seek state funding to speed up its investigation into a growing scandal over President Jacob Zuma's relationship with a wealthy family of businessmen, its spokesman said Tuesday.

In an affair that has caused wild swings in the rand since erupting last week, Zuma has faced calls to resign since a number of senior officials went public with allegations that the Guptas wielded undue influence on the government.

The Guptas, whose businesses stretch from media to mining, have denied offering government jobs and say they are pawns in a plot to oust Zuma. Zuma also denies the allegations.

Oupa Segalwe, spokesman for the Public Protector, said the watchdog was "considering this approach" when asked about comments his boss, Thuli Madonsela, made in the Beeld newspaper Tuesday.

"We want to ask the Treasury for a special fund for our special investigations. Then we can appoint a team of external forensic investigators and conclude the investigation quicker," Madonsela was quoted as saying in the paper.

The opposition Democratic Alliance party is asking Madonsela to investigate whether Zuma used his influence to benefit the Gupta family.

The ruling ANC party, affirming its support for Zuma after a three-day summit this weekend, said it would begin its own investigation into the matter.

The family said Tuesday that it welcomed the ANC's probe. "We welcome this process, which should ultimately allow the truth to be recognized and end this current trial by innuendo and slander," the family said in a statement.

FILE - Demonstrators taking part in a protest against President Jacob Zuma march across the Nelson Mandela bridge into Johannesburg, Dec. 16, 2015.

FILE - Demonstrators taking part in a protest against President Jacob Zuma march across the Nelson Mandela bridge into Johannesburg, Dec. 16, 2015.

Zuma sacked Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in December and appointed a junior politician with no record of national financial management to the post, before backtracking and summoning past Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan a few days later.

Last week, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said that in December, the Gupta family offered him his boss's job.

The allegations come as Africa's most industrialized economy faces the possibility of ratings downgrades, which would raise the costs of borrowing.

They also come ahead of local elections due about midyear, which analysts say could show eroding support for the ANC, the party in power since white rule ended in 1994.

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