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South Africa's Zuma Likely to Survive Gupta Scandal

  • Thuso Khumalo

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 African president Jacob Zuma is facing an investigation over accusations he gave undue influence to the Gupta family, owners of a multi-faceted business empire.

The allegations have sparked public fury and renewed calls for the president to step down. But analysts say Zuma has weathered other political blunders and will probably survive this one too.

The revelation by several government ministers and party officials that they were approached by the Guptas for Cabinet posts has left many South Africans calling for President Zuma’s head.

ANC leader wants explanations

The secretary-general of the ruling ANC party, Gwede Mantashe, has vowed the party will leave no stone unturned in a bid to find out why the Guptas felt they could behave that way.

African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Gwede Mantashe briefs the media at the end of the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) three-day meeting in Pretoria, South Africa, March 20, 2016.

African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Gwede Mantashe briefs the media at the end of the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) three-day meeting in Pretoria, South Africa, March 20, 2016.


"It’s an arrogance of power. It’s when you think that you have an undue influence in you as a company, you say many things about an organization, you don’t respect it and then you can say anything. I think that is the arrogance to the superlative degree," said Mantashe.

Mantashe has not called for Zuma to step down.

But Mbongiseni Mbele, a young unemployed South African, echoes the voices of thousands, some within Zuma’s own party, who now want him to go.

“Zuma must go because of his ill policies, because of his indecision, because of his corruption. He has presided over a corrupt government. He has promoted corruption himself,” said Mbele.

Home improvement scandal

Zuma was heavily criticized for using $20 million in public funds for improvements at his private home, and for his recent firing of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. The firing caused a sharp fall in the rand, wiping millions of dollars off the Johannesburg stock exchange.

FILE - South African President Jacob Zuma's private residence in Nkandla, some 178 kilometers north of Durban.

FILE - South African President Jacob Zuma's private residence in Nkandla, some 178 kilometers north of Durban.

However, analysts say a recent statement by ANC leaders that they have full confidence in Zuma is a sign that the president's grip on power is still tight and strong.

Johannesburg-based political analyst Ralph Mathekga says the ANC could in theory end Zuma's rule, but notes that Zuma rules the party as well as the country.

"It appears that there is no recourse within the ANC against the president, hence I don’t think this is the end," he said. "He is still in charge and when people say that he needs to be recalled I always say to people that do you expect the president to recall himself?”

Zuma's, party's reputation damaged

However, Mathekga says there is no doubt the Gupta scandal has damaged the reputation of Zuma and the party.

Professor Lesiba Teffo, political analyst at the University of South Africa, says there two likely outcomes for the president: either he goes or he drags the party down with him.

"I am one of those who think it is going to be difficult for him to survive this. If he does, he will go down ultimately with the ANC," said Teffo.

Zuma is currently in the second year of a five-year term that ends in May 2019.

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