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S Africa's Zuma moves to block graft report

AFP  |  Johannesburg 

South African President Jacob Zuma moved today to block a watchdog's potentially explosive report into graft allegations against him, in his latest legal bid to protect his battered reputation.

Zuma, 74, has survived a series of damaging scandals while in office, but has faced increasing criticism as the economy stalls and after the ruling ANC party suffered unprecedented losses in local polls.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had been expected to release tomorrow her report into allegations that Zuma let a wealthy business family have undue influence over government and were even able to choose ministers.

"There is an application for an urgent interdict," Zuma's spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga told AFP, giving no further details.

Madonsela's spokesman said the application was due to be heard Tuesday.

Madonsela, who is celebrated in for her diligent work unearthing official misconduct, stands down on Saturday after completing her seven-year term in office.

In 2014, she dealt a major blow to Zuma in a report that found he had "unduly benefited" from the refurbishment of his Nkandla rural home -- valued in 2014 at 216 million rand (then USD 24 million).

Zuma fought the case until being berated by the Constitutional and ordered to pay back USD 500,000 of money that had been spent on upgrades including a chicken coop and a swimming pool that was described as a fire-fighting precaution.

The Nkandla scandal became a symbol of corruption and greed within the African National Congress and triggered several unsuccessful impeachment bids against Zuma by the opposition.

The president's new legal battle is to seek to block a report into "state capture" -- the alleged corrupt influence of the powerful Gupta business family on government appointments, contracts and state-owned businesses.

The three Gupta brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, have built a business empire in mining, media, technology and engineering since moving to in the 1990s.

Madonsela questioned Zuma for four hours earlier this month over the allegations, including the suggestion that deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas had been offered a promotion by the Guptas.

"One would think that President Zuma has concluded that the report won't be too friendly on him, that it might contain explosive findings," Richard Calland, political analyst based at the University of Cape Town, told AFP.

Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst, described Zuma's action as "abuse of the legal system".

"He is under pressure," he said. "He wants to try and bury the report in its current form before it even sees the light of day, which is a complete suppression.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, October 13 2016. 21:22 IST