World News

Son of Former South African President to Face Charges in State Bribery Scandal

Posted July 8, 2018 5:24 p.m. EDT

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — For years he seemed untouchable, protected by his family and business partners against allegations of severe graft.

But now Duduzane Zuma, son of former South African President Jacob Zuma, is being charged for his alleged role in a high-level bribery scandal — further evidence, analysts say, that the ruling African National Congress is taking a tougher stance toward pervasive government corruption.

Duduzane Zuma, 33, will appear in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Johannesburg on Monday, local newspapers reported Sunday. His lawyer, Rudi Krause, confirmed the court appearance, but said he did not yet know what the charges would be.

Police sources told City Press, a local newspaper, that the case was related to a plot to bribe the former deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas, in 2015.

“Unofficially, we’ve heard the case is about Jonas,” Zuma’s lawyer said.

Jonas has told investigators that Duduzane Zuma arranged a meeting at which Ajay Gupta, a member of the Indian business family now at the center of “state capture” allegations in South Africa, offered him nearly $45 million — $45,000 of it in cash — to accept the position of finance minister. Jonas refused the offer.

Zuma has admitted attending that meeting, but denies that any bribes were offered.

After his father was elected president of the African National Congress in 2007 and then president of South Africa two years later, Zuma began rising within the Gupta family empire, which spanned computer equipment, media and mining. Within three years, Zuma had been appointed director of 11 Gupta companies.

“He was the pivot between the Zuma and Gupta families,” said David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, a nonprofit organization in Johannesburg. “He was the Zuma family rep — the business side of their whole scheme.”

Ever since Jacob Zuma was ousted earlier this year and replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa, investigators have begun looking into suspicious government contracts with the Gupta family, including a state dairy farm project that siphoned millions of dollars, intended for helping rural farmers, into private accounts.

In April investigators seized assets worth about $21 million at the Guptas’ Johannesburg residence — the same house where Jonas was allegedly offered the bribe — but to date Duduzane Zuma had not been targeted.

“These charges are an indication that law enforcement authorities feel more free to do their jobs now,” Lewis said. “In the past, they were thwarted by leadership.”

Hangwani Mulaudzi, a spokesman for the police’s priority crimes directorate, declined to comment on the charges, saying that his office would issue a statement Monday.

This past week, Duduzane Zuma traveled to South Africa from Dubai — where he lives in a luxury apartment purchased with help from the Guptas — to attend the funeral of his brother Vusi Nhlakanipho. He was detained briefly at the airport after his arrival on Thursday.

Later this week Zuma will appear in court on unrelated culpable homicide charges: in 2014 he crashed his Porsche into a taxi in Johannesburg, killing two people.

South Africa’s national prosecuting authority has also recently reinstated corruption charges against Jacob Zuma related to a multibillion dollar arms deal in the 1990s.