Units of South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, the NPA, have raided several houses and offices occupied by or linked to sacked Deputy President Jacob Zuma. The raids are connected to the pending trial of Mr. Zuma on two charges of corruption.
Members of the NPA, commonly known as the Scorpions, raided Mr. Zuma's residence in Johannesburg and his home in rural KwaZulu/Natal. Raids have also been conducted across the country at the offices or homes of his lawyers, his financial advisor, a provincial minster and a woman who has previously assisted Mr. Zuma financially.
At Mr. Zuma's luxury Johannesburg residence, purchased recently by an unnamed benefactor for $600,000, there was a brief standoff with Mr. Zuma's body guards, who demanded that the Scorpions disarm themselves. Boxes of files and computer hard drives sealed in clear plastic were removed from some of the search locations by the Scorpions.
Two months ago, Mr. Zuma was charged with two counts of corruption following the conviction of his financial advisor, Shabir Shaik, on charges of corruption and fraud. The judge in the trial found that Shaik's relationship with Mr. Zuma was "generally corrupt." Mr. Zuma's trial is expected to get under way in October.
In a statement, the Scorpions said the operation was part of the ongoing investigation against Mr. Zuma and that the unit last Friday received an order from the High Court to proceed with it.
Speaking on national radio, Scorpion spokesman Makhosini Nkosi said that when the court case against Mr. Zuma was postponed in June it was for the purpose of conducting further investigations.
"So as you may very well know, Mr. Zuma's matter when it was postponed to October, it was to allow for further investigations to take place and search and seizure operations are a phase of an investigation," he said.
The country's largest trade union federation, COSATU, has condemned the raids as part of what it says is ongoing political persecution of Mr. Zuma. General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the prosecution of Mr. Zuma could lead to chaos in South Africa.
Earlier this week, the federation adopted a resolution calling on President Thabo Mbeki to reinstate Mr. Zuma as deputy president. The union also demanded Mr. Mbeki have the charges against Mr. Zuma withdrawn.
The resolution has been widely criticized.
Government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said the government hoped that no one "is calling on President Mbeki to break the law, trash the Constitution, and undermine South Africa's young democracy." He said Mr. Mbeki would never do so.