South African commission opens investigation into influence peddling

FILE PHOTO: South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma attends the 37th Ordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in the capital, Pretoria, South Africa, August 19, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

 South Africa has opened an inquiry into allegations of influence peddling revolving around former president Jacob Zuma and businessman friends of his, the deputy chief justice said on Wednesday.

The allegations around Zuma, who was forced out of office last month by his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, and the wealthy Gupta family have tarred major companies, among them, KPMG and McKinsey, and triggered the revolt against Zuma.

Zuma and the Guptas, who are Indian nationals, have consistently denied wrongdoing.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said in a televised news briefing that the investigative commission had started preliminary work on March 1. It lead investigator will be a former auditor-general, Terrence Nombembe.

The commission will be able to make recommendations for prosecutions.

The commission stems from a 2016 anti-graft report by the Public Protector, a regulatory office with a robust constitutional mandate, that called for an investigation into what is known in South Africa as “state capture.”

It focused on allegations that the brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta had influenced the appointment of ministers.

South Africa’s chief prosecutor last month declared Ajay Gupta “fugitive from justice” wanted in connection with a criminal investigation.