Public Protector gets cash boost to probe Zuptas

JOHANNESBURG, July 7 (Reuters) – South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog said on Thursday it will receive additional funds to investigate whether President Jacob Zuma allowed the wealthy Gupta family to make government appointments.

South African Public Protector Thuli Madonsela gestures during a briefing with journalists at Reuters offices in Sandton outside Johannesburg, South Africa, June 7, 2016 . REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
South African Public Protector Thuli Madonsela gestures during a briefing with journalists at Reuters offices in Sandton outside Johannesburg, South Africa, June 7, 2016 . REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The prominent business family is accused of being behind Zuma’s abrupt sacking of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December, a move that rattled investor confidence and triggered calls for the president’s resignation.

The scandal surrounding the Gupta family took a dramatic turn earlier this year after deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas said they had offered him his boss’s job.

Zuma has said that the Guptas are his friends, but denied doing anything improper. The Guptas have also denied making job offers to anyone in government.

Allegations of the undue influence over top echelons of government prompted opposition parties to call for an investigation by the watchdog, seeking to pile pressure on Zuma’s African National Congress party ahead of Aug. 3 local elections that are expected to be closely-fought.

The accusations also led to four major South African banks cutting links with the Gupta-owned holding company.

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The Public Protector, the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, said it had requested an extra R3 million ($205,000) but was granted half of that amount.

“We have a commitment from government to fund us with R1.5 million ($102,407),” a spokesman for the Public Protector Oupa Segalwe said in an emailed response to questions.

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“Considering the fact that such an investigation would require forensic skills, which is an expertise we do not have internally, the Public Protector decided to request for extra funding from Treasury,” said Segalwe.

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