JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South Africa’s graft-tainted president Jacob Zuma on Tuesday announced a probe into corruption at the highest levels of the state after Parliament indicated it would this week deliberate procedures for impeachment.
Corruption allegations have tarnished Zuma’s image as well as eroded his support base and he was ordered last month to appoint a judicial inquiry into the alleged graft within 30 days.
The beleaguered leader has faced growing pressure to resign before his term as president ends in 2019.
Zuma’s announcement comes the day before Parliament is to take up a draft of a process for removing the nation’s president from office.
The Constitutional Court had ruled nearly two weeks ago that MPs failed to hold Zuma accountable for the millions in public money used to upgrade his personal residence.
In power since 2009, Zuma stepped down in December as President of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party after a 10-year tenure marked by numerous court judgements against him.
“The allegations that the state has been wrestled out of the hands of its real owner the people of South Africa is of paramount importance and are therefore deserving of finality and certainty,” Zuma said in a statement.
“The matter cannot wait any longer,” he said, and added, “I have decided to appoint a commission of inquiry.”
He said further delays in appointing the commission would make the public doubt the government’s commitment to dismantling “all forms of corruption” and entrench “the perception” that the state has been captured by private interests.
Zuma said the commission would be headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Mnyamezeli Mlungisi Zondo.
South Africa’s main oppostion Democratic Alliance (DA) cheered the creation of the probe.
“The commission is a step towards ridding the country of corruption, and must do its work without delay,” DA leader Mmusi Maimane said in a statement.
In 2014, Zuma failed to abide by recommendations made by the country’s anti-corruption watchdog over $15 million of taxpayer-funded refurbishments at his personal home in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
After the Constitutional Court found against him, he eventually reimbursed the equivalent of around $500,000 for non-security-related work at his homestead, a sum set by the treasury.
In 2016, a damning report questioned Zuma’s dealings with the Guptas, a wealthy family of Indian origin, who allegedly were granted influence over his Cabinet appointments.