Embattled South African President Jacob Zuma headed for Harare Thursday morning to discuss trade and investment with his equally beleaguered counterpart, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Zuma left behind thousands of protesters in Pretoria demanding his resignation following the release of the long awaited “State of Capture” report. The investigation into Zuma’s relationships with a wealthy and well-connected business family, who allegedly secured lucrative government contracts and preferential treatment in access to financing and business license approvals, was released Wednesday.
The report, following on complaints earlier this year by South African government and religious leaders, also explored allegations that Zuma’s close ties to the Gupta family resulted in the removal of some government ministers – including the South African finance minister – and the appointment of others. That influence may have determined Zuma’s choice last December to appoint a new finance minister, complainants said.
The report by South Africa’s Public Protector office was completed on October 14, and requires Zuma to appoint a commission of inquiry within 30 days, headed by the appointee of the Chief Justice.
Zuma’s attempts to delay or dismiss the report findings further infuriated South Africans who have for years followed accounts of alleged ethical failures, and who took to the streets in massive demonstrations.
Amid the turmoil at home, Zuma’s departure for Zimbabwe comes as Mugabe faces his own political and economic crises. Calls for Mugabe to step down from within and outside Zimbabwe have gone unheeded even as the president’s Zanu PF party meets with fierce opposition, driven by the country’s economic crisis amid the worst drought in decades.
People have cast a wary eye at Zimbabwe’s newly released currency, promoted in September as a solution to the U.S. currency shortage – and a reminder to many of the hyperinflation Zimbabweans have endured in the past.
So even as Mugabe rolled out the red carpet for Zuma, the launch of their Bi-National Commission begins under the darkest of clouds.
Image: Republic of South Africa