New Zuma probe – will Hawks fly above the all-pervasive presidential influence?

hawks_policeJust when you thought the wheels of justice would grind painfully slowly towards any kind of criminal action against Zuma, wham! – we have the Hawks investigating charges laid by opposition leader Mmusi Maimane. The surprise confirmation yesterday by the Hawks that they are probing not only [what seems to be overwhelming] circumstantial evidence that the Gupta family directed Zuma’s hand in cherry picking various cabinet ministers, but also Zuma’s son Duduzane, who is a Gupta business partner, may just yield early judicial fruit. By now every single government department or parastatal must be hyper-aware that the eyes of the world are on their every move (though it seems some don’t care), so one would hope that a police investigative unit retains some kind of pride in its independence and impartiality. With the ANC having closed ranks around Zuma (after their recent engagement with the party’s working group, even the disaffected 101 veterans group was at pains to say they had not ‘as a collective’ called for him to step down), we may just be seeing a glimmer of light that institutions set up to hold government and the ruling party accountable are able to (re?) assert themselves. One could even speculate that this will depend on whether the real power has shifted away from the Presidency, whose tentacles reached into almost every possible nook and accountability cranny. – Chris Bateman

by Amogelang Mbatha

(Bloomberg) — A South African police unit will investigate corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma following a report by the nation’s graft ombudsman that implied that he may have allowed members of the Gupta family to influence cabinet appointments and the awarding of state contracts.

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President Jacob Zuma, March 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The unit known as the Hawks will investigate charges brought against Zuma by Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance. Maimane also asked the police to probe the Gupta family and Zuma’s son, Duduzane, who is their business partner, as well as two cabinet ministers implicated in a report by the former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela. Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.

“We will be taking over the investigation,” Hangwani Mulaudzi, a spokesman for Hawks, said by phone on Tuesday. “We have to look at the allegations they are making and then see what the next step is. It’s still early at this stage.”

Madonsela’s 355-page report, which was released after Zuma abandoned a court bid to stop its release, implied that he and some ministers may have breached the government’s code of ethics in their relationship with the Gupta family, who are Zuma’s friends. Madonsela called for a judicial inquiry into the allegations.

“I received official confirmation from the Head of the Serious Commercial Crimes Unit at the Hawks, that the criminal charges I laid against Jacob Zuma last week will be investigated.,” Maimane said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday. “This means we are another step closer to seeing Jacob Zuma face the consequences of his corruption.”