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South Africa Police Raid Gupta Compound as Zuma's Future Uncertain -- 2nd Update

14 Feb 2018 9:11 am
By Joe Parkinson and Gabriele Steinhauser 

JOHANNESBURG--Police raided the home of a wealthy business family at the center of high-profile corruption allegations made against President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday, just hours before a deadline for South Africa's leader to respond to his own party's order to resign.

The morning raid on the compound that houses the home and company headquarters of the Gupta family piles more pressure on Mr. Zuma. According to a trove of leaked documents released over the past year, the Guptas used their friendship to Mr. Zuma and a business partnership with his son, Duduzane, to stir government decisions and secure multibillion state contracts. They have also been accused of trying to bribe a former deputy finance minister, along with the promise of making him finance minister.

The president, his son and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing. Atul Gupta, who leads the family business, has said there was "no authenticity" to the documents.

Police said its serious corruption crime unit had arrested three people during the raid and expected two more suspects to hand themselves over in what it called an ongoing operation. South Africa's government broadcaster reported that one of the people arrested was a member of the Gupta family. A spokesman for the police's special crimes unit couldn't be reached for comment, while emails to Gupta family representatives went unanswered.

Police said the arrests were tied to its investigation into allegations, stemming from the document trove, that the Guptas misused funds tied to a public dairy farm contract. The leaked documents show how some of those funds were used to pay for a lavish 2013 family wedding, among other things.

Angry crowds gathered around the police vehicles that blocked the high-walled compound in one of the city's most exclusive suburbs.

"Now it begins," said Llare Mandla, a taxi driver who drove to the compound when he heard the news. "Zuma should have just gone but now the fightback starts. Many people are going to jail. It's for the best."

The ruling African National Congress--the party of Nelson Mandela that defeated white-minority rule--has been locked in a high-stakes battle over who should lead Africa's most developed economy. On Tuesday, the ANC announced that Mr. Zuma had dismissed its order to step down immediately and instead demanded an extra three to six months in office. The ANC wants the new party leader and current deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to take over from Mr. Zuma ahead of national elections next year.

"The president was to be filing his response (to the party's order to resign) by 10 a.m. this morning," ANC spokesman Pula Mabe told radio station SA FM, adding that there could be logistical delays.

It was unclear, however, whether Mr. Zuma was planning to heed the party's demand to communicate his decision on the recall. A brief statement from his office said that no news conference had been announced by the president and that media should await further notification.

Should the president stick to his refusal to resign, the ruling party will likely be forced into calling a potentially damaging vote of no-confidence against the president it voted into office.

Write to Joe Parkinson at joe.parkinson@wsj.com and Gabriele Steinhauser at gabriele.steinhauser@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 14, 2018 04:11 ET (09:11 GMT)

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