Socialist Worker

Corruption scandals hit Zuma in South Africa - and cause a crisis for the ANC

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2498

President Zuma in New York last year

President Zuma in New York last year (Pic: GovernmentZA)

South African president Jacob Zuma is under intense pressure to resign after three scandalous revelations pointing towards his corruption.

South Africa’s top court last week found he had acted dishonestly over state spending on his private residence. Zuma’s luxurious ranch-like Nkandla residence benefited from over £11 million of public money. He failed to obey instructions to pay back some of it, and the court has now deemed this to be a breach of the constitution.

This follows revelations about the super-rich Gupta family’s links with Zuma and their influence over state policy.

And documents released from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca on Monday of this week brought evidence of more corruption. They showed that Zuma’s nephew, Clive Khulubuse Zuma, has made tens of millions from an oil deal in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The deal was done shortly after president Zuma had visited the country to discuss oil deals.

Zuma was forced to make a humiliating apology to parliament over Nkandla. But, as Ranjeni Munusamy wrote in South Africa’s Daily Maverick, “Zuma did not apologise for the money spent on his homestead, his defiance on the issue, the damage caused to the image of the government he leads, his scorn in Parliament when asked questions about Nkandla. He did not even apologise to the ANC for bringing it into disrepute.

“What Zuma said was: ‘The matter has caused a lot of frustration and confusion, for which I apologise, on my behalf and on behalf of government.’”

Zuma added, “Any action that has been found not to be in keeping with the Constitution happened because of a different approach and different legal advice.”


The constitutional court finding has vindicated the “Pay Back the money” campaign launched by the Economic Freedom Fighters. This new party won 25 MPs in elections in 2014 and speaks to the left of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

Criticism of Zuma goes much deeper than the ANC’s opponents. The Gupta issue led to several former commanders and commissars of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, calling for a special ANC conference.

Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, who was jailed alongside Nelson Mandela, released a letter last week to Zuma saying, “In the face of such persistently widespread criticism, condemnation and demand, is it asking too much to express the hope that you will choose the correct way that is gaining momentum, to consider stepping down?”

Even the South African Communist Party said the “judgement and the evident popular acclamation it received from the widest array of South Africans should be a clear warning signal to the ANC, to our ANC-led alliance, and to the ANC-led government. Decisive action is now imperative, otherwise the continuing loss of moral authority, political paralysis and fragmentation of our movement will continue…. The ANC parliamentary caucus (which includes, of course, SACP members who serve as ANC MPs), also needs to conduct serious and collective soul-searching.”

With municipal (local council) elections coming this year, the ANC is in deep trouble. The Marikana miners’ massacre of 2012, the miners’ strikes, a recent students’ revolt and the daily struggle in the townships have all undermined its authority. The ANC continues to seek to implement neoliberal policies that have failed the vast majority.

The task is to replace it with a force that wants to do away with the bosses, not fatten them.


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Article information

Tue 5 Apr 2016, 15:40 BST
Issue No. 2498
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