JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s ANC unveiled plans yesterday to sack President Jacob Zuma via a parliamentary no-confidence vote, hours after armed police raided the luxury home of his friends, the Gupta brothers, as part of an anti-corruption investigation.
In his first response to an avalanche of pressure from the African National Congress (ANC) for him to quit, Mr Zuma proclaimed his innocence and said he was being “victimised” by Nelson Mandela’s former liberation movement.
“There’s nothing I’ve done wrong,” a relaxed but indignant Mr Zuma said during a nearly hour-long interview with the SABC, South Africa’s state broadcaster. “I don’t think it’s fair. I think it’s unfair.”
When asked point-blank if would step aside, he avoided the question and continued to allege a lack of principle in moves by the party’s National Executive Committee to oust him. He said he would make a formal statement later.
He did not comment on the police raids, which marked a dramatic tightening of the net around the 75-year-old and the political faction around him accused of milking state resources for their own ends.
Even if he refuses to quit, with the ANC backing an opposition-led no-confidence motion today, Mr Zuma appears to have run out of road after nine years in office.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose election as head of the ANC in December marked the beginning of the end of Mr Zuma’s tenure, could be sworn in as head of state as early tomorrow.
“After we have voted for the removal of the President of the Republic tomorrow – and depending on the availability of the Chief Justice – we will also elect a new president,” Mr Mthembu said.
The speed of Mr Zuma’s demise after two weeks of dithering by the ANC has stunned South Africa.
The police’s elite Hawks unit said the early morning raid resulted in three arrests The SABC said a Gupta family member was among those detained. A senior judicial source said police expected to arrest up to seven more people and that Gupta family members would be among them.
“You can’t bring a matter of this nature to court and not charge the people who have benefited the most,” the source, who has knowledge of the police’s moves, said.
Mr Zuma and the Guptas, a family of wealthy Indian-born businessmen, deny any wrongdoing. A lawyer for the Gupta family said he could not comment on the raid because he had yet to see the search warrant.
Shortly after dawn, a dozen Hawks police officers sealed off a street leading to the Gupta mansion in Johannesburg’s upscale Saxonwold suburb. One blocked access to Reuters, saying: “This is a crime scene.”
Minutes later, an unmarked police van left the compound as residents applauded police officers and hurled abuse at security guards for the Guptas, who have been accused by South Africa’s top anti-corruption watchdog of influence-peddling and swaying the appointment of cabinet ministers.
“Finally something is being done about it. These guys must get out of our country. They must leave us alone. They have done enough damage,” said Tessa Turvey, head of the local residents’ association.
Police also raided the Guptas’ Oakbay holding company in Sandton, according to a security guard outside the building.
On Tuesday, the ANC ordered Mr Zuma to step down as president of the country, giving him no firm deadline but saying the party was sure he would comply.