By Christopher Torchia*
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s biggest opposition party said Thursday that it is pushing for a parliamentary vote to remove President Jacob Zuma next week following the release of a state watchdog report indicating possible government corruption linked to Zuma and some associates.
The Democratic Alliance will even lobby members of the ruling African National Congress party who defeated a similar move in parliament against the president in April, said opposition leader Mmusi Maimane. The opposition has received “provisional confirmation” that the motion will be debated in the National Assembly on Nov. 10, he said.
The opposition party’s effort is likely to encounter the same kind of resistance from the ruling party in a new vote as it did earlier in the year, even though more ANC members have spoken publicly against Zuma in recent months.
In April, the South African parliament rejected a motion to remove Zuma by a vote of 233 to 143; the motion required a two-thirds majority for approval. It followed an apology by Zuma after the Constitutional Court ruled that he failed to uphold the constitution in a scandal over millions of dollars in state spending on his private home.
On Thursday, the ruling party said it welcomed the report on corruption allegations linked to the president, but commented only in general terms about curbing graft.
“This report provides a concrete basis for the ANC and society in general to discuss the allegations contained therein and deal with its outcomes,” the party said in a statement. It said it supports a plan to introduce “lifestyle audits” for all party leaders.
Pressure on Zuma intensified Wednesday when a South African court ordered the release of the state watchdog report about the relationship that Zuma and some state officials had with the Guptas, a business family of Indian immigrants accused of meddling in the government for financial benefit. The report by the public protector’s office found possible ethical violations centering on allegations that the Guptas were involved in the removal and appointment of Cabinet ministers and directors of state-owned firms.
The Gupta family wants to present its case and will cooperate with any judicial inquiry, said family lawyer Gert van der Merwe.
“We will prepare for the allegations and that is what we concentrate on,” eNCA, a South Africa media organization, quoted van der Merwe as saying.
The Guptas have previously denied wrongdoing and said they were being framed as scapegoats for South Africa’s economic problems.
The watchdog report recommended that a judicial commission investigate the allegations against the president and others. Zuma would be required to appoint the commission, though the chief justice of the Constitutional Court would select a judge to head the panel. Zuma’s office said he was not given a chance to provide “meaningful input” in the investigation and is considering whether to challenge the report in court.
Zuma, meanwhile, traveled to neighboring Zimbabwe on Thursday to discuss trade with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. In prepared remarks there, Zuma did not mention the scandals that have sapped his popularity at home. He appeared jovial, joking with some of Mugabe’s ministers.
Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980 despite public discontent and economic hardship, referred to Zuma’s problems in welcoming remarks.
“We are happy you are still in one piece in spite of what the papers are writing every day,” the 92-year-old Mugabe said. “So we continue to say, well, long live our solidarity.”