October 31, 2017 / 4:41 PM / a year ago

South Africa's Zuma asks court to set aside report on influence-peddling

FILE PHOTO: South Africa's President Jacob Zuma attends a SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in Pretoria, South Africa, August 19, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday asked the High Court to set aside a report by the anti-corruption watchdog on alleged influence-peddling in his government, saying he would instead set up a commission of inquiry into the allegations.

The court has been hearing a case brought by Zuma who had challenged the right of the report’s author, South Africa’s anti-graft agency known as Public Protector, to call for a judicial inquiry to investigate the allegations.

Zuma, 75, who previously described the “State of Capture” report as “unfair” in parliament, said setting up such an inquiry was his prerogative.

The report published a year ago recommended a judicial investigation into allegations of systemic corruption by Zuma, some of his ministers and heads of state-owned companies.

The report focussed on allegations that Zuma’s friends, the businessmen and brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, had influenced the appointment of ministers. Zuma and the Guptas have denied the accusations.

In a fresh application on Tuesday, Zuma’s lawyers argued that the entire report by former Public Protector head Thuli Madonsela should be set aside.

Should the court grant his application, Zuma would set up a separate commission of inquiry himself within 30 days of the date of the order, court papers presented by his lawyers said.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance party opposes Zuma’s application, saying it is unconstitutional. It says it wants the court to support Madonsela’s recommendation for a judicial inquiry.

Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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