South African police on Wednesday raided the home of a business family linked to President Jacob Zuma as the nation awaited word from the embattled leader on whether he will obey a ruling party order to quit.
Agents from the Hawks, an elite police investigative unit, entered the compound of the Gupta family in an affluent Johannesburg neighborhood. Three people were arrested in operations at various addresses, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The family is suspected of using its connections to Zuma to influence Cabinet appointments and win state contracts and has been a flashpoint for national anger over corruption in state enterprises during Zuma’s tenure. Both the Guptas and Zuma say they’ve done nothing wrong.
A judicial commission is preparing to investigate the alleged graft associated with the India-born Gupta brothers, who moved to South Africa around the time of the transition from white minority rule to democracy in the 1990s. One of Zuma’s sons, Duduzane, had a business relationship with the Guptas.
Meanwhile, there was no immediate response from Zuma to an announcement Tuesday by the ruling African National Congress party that the president must leave office. The ANC party, which has lost popularity because of the scandals linked to Zuma, is trying to resolve a leadership crisis that has disrupted one of Africa’s biggest economies.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is poised to replace Zuma, who could face a motion of no confidence in parliament if he defies his party’s order to step down. Zuma’s second five-year term ends with elections in 2019, but the ANC wants to remove him so that it has more time to recover the confidence of disaffected voters.
A motion of no confidence sponsored by an opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, has been scheduled for Feb. 22 in parliament.
As the Gupta-linked investigation proceeds, Zuma could face corruption charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago. South Africa’s chief prosecutor is expected to make a decision on whether to prosecute Zuma on the old charges, which were reinstated last year after being thrown out in 2009.
In another scandal, South Africa’s top court ruled in 2016 that Zuma violated the constitution following an investigation of multi-million-dollar upgrades to his private home using state funds. The president paid back some of the money.
The ruling party’s decision to recall Zuma was welcomed as “long overdue” by the foundation of Thabo Mbeki, a former president who was instructed by the ANC to quit in 2008 during a dispute with Zuma, who was then party leader. Mbeki did not contest the order and Zuma became president after elections the following year.
The move against Zuma allows “the governing party to urgently and immediately attend to the many challenges and negative developments which have arisen during the years of the presidency of Mr. Zuma,” Mbeki’s foundation said.