Top Zuma ally’s office raided as corruption clampdown intensifies

A South African police investigative unit said it’s conducting a search-and-seizure operation at the office of African National Congress Secretary-General  Ace Magashule, a close ally of president Jacob Zuma, in a sign of the authorities’ accelerating probe of corruption allegations.

The raid at Magashule’s offices in the province of Free State, where he’s the outgoing premier, is part of a probe into allegations that funds allocated for a dairy and farming project illicitly went to members of the Gupta family, who’re friends with Zuma and are in business with his son.

A similar operation is being conducted at the province’s agriculture department, Hangwani Mulaudzi, a spokesman for the police unit known as the Hawks, said by phone.

The Hawks’s action is the latest move by the authorities to combat graft since Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, succeeded Zuma as leader of the ANC last month and pledged to restore investor confidence in the economy and public support for the ruling party.

While parts of the criminal justice system ground to a halt during Zuma’s scandal-ridden tenure, South Africa’s shifting political landscape and mounting public pressure on the authorities to act against corruption are helping turn the situation around, said Mpumelelo Mkhabela, a political analyst at the University of Pretoria’s Center of Governance Innovation.

Losing Support

“I don’t think Ace will finish his term,” Mkhabela said by phone. “The ANC has made a commitment to fighting corruption and have realized that unless they follow through, they will lose support.”

Last week prosecutors moved to seize assets of Trillian Capital Partners, which was majority owned by an ally of the Gupta family, because of alleged unlawful payments by the state power utility.

A commission of inquiry is also probing whether Zuma played any role in the Gupta family’s alleged offer of cabinet posts to people including former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.

Ramaphosa said in an interview with Bloomberg television on Wednesday that the authorities are speeding up investigations to fight corruption, calling it a “mammoth task.”

Magashule, who oversees the day-to-day running of the ANC, has admitted that his son worked for the Guptas but said there was nothing untoward in his relationship with them. Zuma, his son and the Guptas have also denied any wrongdoing.

Magashule won the post of ANC secretary-general by just 24 votes in December, defeating Ramaphosa’s preferred candidate, Senzo Mchunu, in an election that was marred by allegations of rigging.

“The law must be allowed to take its course,” Kusela Sangoni-Khawe, a spokeswoman for the ANC, said in an interview with Johannesburg-based broadcaster eNCA. “Those who are guilty of wrongdoing, regardless of whether it is a leader of the ANC such as the secretary general, they must face the full wrath of the law.”

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Top Zuma ally’s office raided as corruption clampdown intensifies