South African Ombudsman awaits funds to probe Guptas’ state role

South African Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is waiting for funding to begin an investigation into allegations that the Gupta family, who are friends of President Jacob Zuma, wielded influence over the appointment of government ministers.

“I had requested additional resources from government and we are awaiting word on that,” Madonsela said in an interview on Tuesday in Johannesburg. “If we do get those resources it would be much better to have this investigation expedited.”

The Dominican Order was the first organization to request an investigation into whether Zuma, 74, allowed members of the Gupta family to choose ministers. The group of senior church leaders also asked for a probe into the awarding of contracts and licenses to companies linked to the Guptas, according to Madonsela.

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Zuma fired former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in December and replaced him with little-known lawmaker David van Rooyen, sparking a selloff in the rand and the nation’s bonds. Four days later, he appointed Pravin Gordhan to the post he’d held from 2009 to 2014, after bowing to pressure from business leaders and senior ANC officials. Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said in a statement on March 16 that the Guptas personally offered him Nene’s post. Jonas said he rejected the offer. The Gupta family deny the claims and Zuma has said he alone has the authority to appoint cabinet ministers.

An investigation is needed into the controversy because “it threatens to divide the nation and it involves serious allegations about the possibility of undermining democracy, undermining the rule of law and corrupting virtually everything that happens in government,” Madonsela said.

The Democratic Alliance subsequently requested that the ombudsman investigate the allegation that Van Rooyen was appointed through the improper influence of the Guptas.

“The DA’s request should have been investigated within 30 days, but because of lack of resources, we struggled,” Madonsela said. “That one will be investigated.”

The ruling African National Congress dropped an investigation into the role of the Gupta family in state business after only one person made a written submission claiming undue influence, Gwede Mantashe, the party’s secretary-general, said on May 31.


– Bloomberg