South African court orders Zuma to set up influence-peddling inquiry

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PRETORIA (Reuters) – South Africa’s High Court ruled on Wednesday that President Jacob Zuma, under fire for alleged corruption, must set up a judicial inquiry into state influence-peddling within 30 days. In the latest in a series of judicial blows to Zuma’s scandal-tinged administration, the court upheld recommendations by South Africa’s anti-graft watchdog calling for an inquiry. Zuma had challenged the move.

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High Court Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said Zuma’s application against the inquiry was “ill-advised and reckless” and an abuse of the judicial process.

Zuma had challenged the right of the report’s author to call for a judicial inquiry and the appointment by the chief justice of a judge to head it. Zuma said it was his prerogative whether to set up such an inquiry.

It was not immediately clear if Zuma would appeal.

Zuma has survived several votes of no-confidence and is fighting off nearly 800 counts of alleged corruption relating to an arms deal.

Political instability, including questions over who will replace Zuma — his African National Congress will choose its new leader over the weekend — has been a major driver in South African debt being rated “junk”.

The influence-peddling inquiry was recommended in a report released a year ago by the Public Protector, the country’s anti-graft agency. Zuma also sought to block the report’s release.

The report focused on allegations that Zuma’s friends, the businessmen and brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, had influenced the appointment of ministers. Zuma and the Guptas have denied all accusations of wrongdoing.

Ordering Zuma to pay the costs of the latest court challenge, Mlambo, the chief justice, said the president’s conduct was “clearly objectionable … and amounts to clear abuse of the judicial process”.

On Friday, the same court ruled that Zuma’s appointment of a state prosecutor was not valid and should be set aside immediately. Zuma is appealing that ruling.

Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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