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President Jacob Zuma has a remarkable ability to appear unperturbed, regardless of what he is being accused of or who is doing the accusing. He is so relaxed, in fact, that he even recently fell asleep in Parliament during an important speech by Pravin Gordhan – the finance minister widely believed to be standing in the way of plans by his friends, the Gupta brothers, to do more business in South Africa. But the stress that is bubbling within him is showing. Instead of stoically facing the storm of criticism following the release of the Public Protector’s #StateCaptureReport last week, he popped over to Zimbabwe to hang out with President Robert Mugabe. This weekend Zuma emerged in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal, from where he originates and has a strong support base. The crowds inevitably cheered when he spoke to them, which no doubt made him feel a bit more loved. But, in a telling sign that the pressure is weighing heavily on him, he revealed that prison has been on his mind. Zuma said that he does not fear going to prison because he has been there before for political reasons. But if he returns to prison, it won’t be for fighting a noble cause. Zuma will be there because he has played a criminal role in raiding the state coffers and reaped many benefits from this himself. There are some other reasons he might not fear going to prison: Zuma has installed allies in key positions in the criminal justice system, which could make it very difficult to successfully prosecute him; and, there is the possibility he might be offered amnesty against prosecution. Zuma is also a master at delay tactics, finding every excuse in the book not to respond to questions when he doesn’t want to. Zuma might be thinking about what it might be like behind bars again, but he’s unlikely to see the jail door shut in his face any time soon. – Jackie Cameron
From Al Jazeera
A defiant South African President Jacob Zuma says he doesn’t fear prison days after an anti-graft watchdog released a report recommending a judicial probe into alleged corruption.
The “State of Capture” report, which stopped short of saying crimes had been committed, suggested a judge should take the investigation forward into whether Zuma, cabinet members, and some state companies acted improperly in their dealings with wealthy Indian businessmen.
Zuma on Saturday noted he had served time as a political prisoner during South Africa’s apartheid era.
“I’m not afraid of jail. I’ve been to jail during the struggle,” Zuma told a cheering crowd in Kwa-Zulu Natal, his home province and political stronghold.
Zuma spent 10 years as an anti-apartheid activist in prison on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela during the 1948-1994 rule by the country’s white minority.
Zuma criticised the report by anti-graft watchdog Public Protector released on Wednesday, saying he was not given a chance to provide “meaningful input” into the investigation.
“There’s no longer any space for democratic debate. The only space there is for court arguments by lawyers. That’s not democracy,” Zuma said.
The Gupta brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, who are friends of Zuma and work with his son – have been accused of influencing cabinet appointments and securing government tenders. Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing.
Thousands of protesters called for the president to resign after the 355-page probe was released, and some opposition politicians said Zuma should face criminal charges.
Jacob Zuma says he's not afraid to go to jail. Really? And yet we've paid millions for him to stay away from the courts, the road to jail.
— Justice4All (@Unathi_Kwaza) November 6, 2016
In one case, the report cited “extraordinary and unprecedented” government intervention in a private business dispute involving Zuma’s friends and his son.
This, it said, may have created “a possible conflict of interest between the president as head of state and his private interest as a friend and father”.
Zuma faces a no-confidence vote in parliament soon. He has survived two similar votes this year, backed by the support of his African National Congress (ANC) party, which controls about two-thirds of the assembly.
Since taking office in 2009, Zuma, 74, has overcome several corruption scandals with the backing of the top echelon of the ANC.
In June, South Africa’s Treasury recommended that Zuma should pay back more than $500,000 of public funds spent upgrading his private residence, including with a chicken coop and swimming pool.
The ruling came three months after the country’s highest court found that the president had violated the constitution by defying an order to repay some of the money used in the $23m non-security upgrades for his home in Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal. – Al Jazeera
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