An elite South African police team has raided the luxurious family home of a controversial businessman accused of improper relations with Jacob Zuma, as the ruling ANC party continues its chaotic effortsthe country’s president.
The raid on the compound of the wealthy Gupta family in Johannesburg will be taken as an encouraging sign that Cyril Ramaphosa, the new leader of the African National Congress (ANC), will move swiftly against those associated with the corruption allegations and mismanagement that have characterised Zuma’s nine years in power.
Hangwani Mulaudzi, a spokesman for the police unit known as the Hawks, said the raid was part of an investigation into allegations of influence-peddling in the government.
“We’re viewing this investigation in a very serious light. We’re not playing around in terms of making sure that those who are responsible in the so-called state capture, they take responsibility for it,” Mulaudzi said.
The Guptas are accused of “state capture” by the public prosecutor, a constitutionally appointed independent anti-corruption watchdog that coined the phrase to describe how the family has allegedly used its friendship with Zuma to influence ministerial appointments, secure multimillion dollar government contracts and gain access to inside information. The Guptas and Zuma deny any wrongdoing.
There are unconfirmed reports that at least one of the two brothers who run the family businesses has been arrested. A police officer at the compound blocked off access to the street in the upmarket suburb of Saxonwold saying: “This is a crime scene.”
South Africa was pitched into an unprecedented political crisis when the ANC admitted on Monday that Zuma had defied its orders to resign, and that it had little idea of when the 75-year-old head of state would respond to its demand to leave office.
The failure to immediately force out Zuma, who faces a range of corruption charges and has become an electoral liability, will be seen as evidence of deep divisions within the party, and underlines the failure of Ramaphosa, who is deputy president, to impose his authority.
Many in South Africa are increasingly impatient with the ANC’s management of the crisis, though the raid on the home of the Guptas will go some way to restore the sense of optimism prompted by Ramaphosa’s election as party leader in December.
Zuma’s tumultuous nine years in power have undermined the image and legitimacy of the party that led South Africans to freedom from apartheid in 1994, but the former activist retains significant support inside the party and at a local level in many parts of South Africa.
Analysts have described the crisis as “a battle for the soul of the ANC” and “a referendum on the true balance of power within the party”. The party may be forced to move a no-confidence motion in parliament to force Zuma out. An opposition party has already scheduled a vote for 22 February.
The ANC secretary general, Ace Magashule, suggested on Monday that many in the ANC would back Zuma, who has survived several no-confidence motions in the past, if the opposition tried to oust him in parliament.