South African judge orders graft report release amid anti-Zuma protest

A South African judge has ruled that a report over alleged influence peddling in government should be released at 1500 GMT.

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA (NOVEMBER 2, 2016) (SABC) – A South African judge ruled on Wednesday (November 2) that a report over alleged influence peddling in government should be released, after President Jacob Zuma dropped a court bid to delay its publication and thousands marched against him.

The report by the Public Protector, a constitutionally mandated anti-graft official, looks into allegations of corruption that have brought on the biggest crisis of Zuma’s presidency, costing him support within the ruling party.

“The public protector is ordered to publish the report forthwith and by no later than 1700 (1500 GMT) on 2 November, 2016,” Judge Dunstan Mlambo said to applause in court.

The report’s publication had been halted on Oct. 14 after Zuma appealed to the High Court to block it.

Zuma withdrew his court bid in the interests of justice, the Presidency said in a statement. It also said Zuma would consider “the contents of the report in order to ascertain whether it should be a subject of a court challenge.”

His lawyer, Anthea Platt, had earlier told the court she had been instructed to withdraw the application to delay publication and offer to pay the costs for the hearing.

Zuma denies providing special favours for wealthy friends, including three brothers who also deny wrongdoing.

The affair has rattled markets in Africa’s most industrialised economy, which faces the risk of ratings downgrades later this year.

Divisions within the African National Congress (ANC) have widened since the ruling party suffered its worst-ever local election results in August.

The rand rose by 2 percent to the dollar and bonds firmed. Analysts said allowing the report to be released was an indication the country still had strong institutions.

Outside the court deliberating whether to release the report, protesters carried “Zuma must go” placards.

Opposition leaders said Zuma, who has shown no signs of stepping down before his second and final term as president is up in 2019, should leave office now.

“We knew that we had a watertight case and that Zuma had no leg to stand on – he will either withdraw or the judges will dismiss him,” said Julius Malema, leader of the radical leftist party Economic Freedom Fighters who called for Wednesday’s marches as a show of force against Zuma.

“We are very clear about the fact that the report must be released. It should be published on the website by no later than five o’clock today and once we’ve got that report we want it to be crystal clear; that all actions that emanate from that. One, if they are criminal, Jacob Zuma must be criminally-charged. He must resign now and next week we’ll exercise our actions in parliament to say Jacob Zuma must be removed,” added Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party.

Since taking office in 2009, Zuma, 74, has survived several corruption scandals with the backing of top echelons of the ANC. But near record unemployment has exacerbated discontent with his government, which also failed to end weeks of often violent student demonstrations over the cost of university education.