Zuma shakes up Cabinet in S. Africa corruption probe

South African President Jacob Zuma launched a major anti-corruption drive yesterday.

Story highlights

  • President Jacob Zuma dismisses two Cabinet ministers, suspends police chief
  • Luxury trip, shady deals on police offices among alleged misues of public funds
  • Zuma also to launch inquiry into contentious arms procurement contract
  • Challenge likely lies ahead for Zuma during ruling party's elective conference
South Africa's president fired two ministers and suspended his chief of police Monday after they were implicated in the misuse of millions of dollars of public funds.
The actions by President Jacob Zuma against ministers Sicelo Shiceka and Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, and chief of police Bheki Cele come after instances of misappropriation cited in a report released this month by South Africa's Public Protector's office.
The report found that Shiceka, the minister of cooperative governance, spent tens of thousands of dollars on a luxury trip to Switzerland "to visit a jailed lady friend," and found that Cele and Mahlangu-Nkabinde "irregularly authorized lease agreements for the procurement of police offices worth millions of dollars."
Shiceka spent more than $9,000 of government money on luxury travel, according to the report, including a trip to Switzerland that he told Zuma was related to the FIFA 2010 World Cup, which South Africa was hosting, when in fact its "only aim" was to visit a friend of Shiceka's at the Anstalten Hindelbank prison in Bern, "which he did on two occasions," the public protector's report reads.
In Monday's news conference in Pretoria, Zuma said he had established a board of inquiry to look into allegations of misconduct against Cele "in relation to the procurement of office accommodation for the South African Police Service, as per the findings and recommendations of the Public Protector."
South Africa's previous police chief, Jackie Selebi, was convicted of corruption last year.
Zuma also formally announced a commission of inquiry which will investigate the country's multimillion-dollar arms procurement contract, from which the president himself has been accused of corruptly benefiting.
Corruption charges against Zuma were dropped in 2009 after prosecutors determined that the investigation was politically motivated.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions praised Zuma's announcement, saying it hoped the actions mark "a turning point in the fight against maladministration and corruption."
"From now on there must be a policy of zero-tolerance to the looting of public resources by anyone, in the public or private sector, no matter how senior their position," the trade union organization said.
This is the second shakeup in Zuma's cabinet since he took office in 2009. He has been widely criticized in South Africa for indecisiveness and lacking authority, and he is expected to be challenged next year when his African National Congress holds an elective conference.
This week, the ruling party's youth league is embarking on mass protest action against poverty and joblessness in the country.