South Africa: Public Protector seeks funds to investigate Zuma ties with Guptas

South Africa's Public Protector, the nation's top anti-corruption watchdog, will approach the national treasury for funds to investigate President Jacob Zuma's relationship with the wealthy Gupta family, Beeld newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Thuli Madonsela, whose term as Public Protector expires in October, was quoted as saying her office was bound by law to look into a complaint lodged last week by the Democratic Alliance (DA), an opposition party.

But the watchdog's budget has been cut ever since an investigation into a 250 million rand ($16.44 million) state-funded security upgrade to Zuma's private residence, Beeld reported.

"We want to ask the treasury for a special fund for our special investigations. Then we can appoint a team of external forensic investigators and conclude the investigation quicker," Madonsela was quoted as saying.

Zuma, who last month offered to foot part of the bill for the improvements, is facing calls for his resignation after deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas said last week he was in December offered his boss's job by the Gupta family.

In the past week, other senior officials have also accused the Gupta family of wielding undue influence in government activities.

The Guptas, whose businesses stretch from media to mining, have denied offering government jobs and say they are pawns in a plot to oust Zuma.
Zuma got the backing of his party at a three-day summit this weekend.

Zuma sacked finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December and appointed a junior politician with no record of national financial management to the post, before rapidly backtracking and summoning past finance minister Pravin Gordhan a few days later.

The DA is asking Madonsela to investigate, among other things, whether Zuma used his influence to benefit the Gupta family.

Madonsela, who said her office would contact treasury soon, sees the investigation lasting between two and six months if the extra funding is secured.

Madonsela's office did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

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