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S. Africa Parliament Drops Presidential Corruption Probe Ahead of Polls

FILE: South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, right, jokes with his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, after Zuma's re-election in 2012. The ruling African National Party has delayed an inquiry into Zuma's spending.
FILE: South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, right, jokes with his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, after Zuma's re-election in 2012. The ruling African National Party has delayed an inquiry into Zuma's spending.
Anita Powell
South Africa’s ruling party has postponed a parliamentary inquiry into corruption allegations against President Jacob Zuma.  The African National Congress says the committee does not have time to consider the matter before the May 7 general elections.

Just six weeks after South Africa's top anti-corruption official issued a 400-page report detailing how Zuma used $23 million of public funds to renovate his private home, an investigative committee in parliament, which met only twice, dropped its inquiry.

The official reason: not enough time before voters elect a new national assembly and provincial legislatures.

Zuma’s deputy in the ruling ANC party dismissed opposition allegations that this is a political dodge.  

Postponing the inquiry is “a very practical decision,” said Cyril Ramaphosa , who will be the nation’s second-in-command if the ANC triumphs in the elections, as it is expected to.

The committee “would practically not be able to even complete the process of dealing with that report,” given its size, Ramaphosa said. “… So we are satisfied that this matter is going to be handled as we move on.”

Opponents of the ANC have criticized its record on unemployment, corruption and service delivery to poor South Africans. Many analysts expect the party's margin of victory in the elections to be smaller than normal.  But the party of the late Nelson Mandela appears to retain a hold on most South African voters.

Ramaphosa, a former union activist turned millionaire businessman, displaced  Zuma’s current deputy at the ANC’s national conference in 2012. That move puts Ramaphosa on a direct path to be the ANC’s presidential candidate if Zuma finishes a possible second term in 2019 or to inherit the presidential mantle if Zuma does not finish that term.

On Tuesday, Ramaphosa made light of his aspirations. 

“My great ambition is to be president of ... the golf club where I play golf.  That is my greatest dream,” he said. “… And I would also like to be president of my fishing club.  ... That is the sum total of my ambitions.”

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