JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday denied reports that President Jacob Zuma had offered to resign after mounting claims of improper political interference by the leader’s wealthy business friends.
In an affair that has caused wild swings in the rand since erupting last week, Zuma is facing calls to quit since a number senior officials went public with allegations that the Gupta business clan exert an undue sway on the government.
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.
South Africa’s Mail & Guardian and Sowetan newspapers reported that Zuma had offered to stand down at a meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee this weekend, citing party sources who attended the summit.
“This is not true. It didn’t happen,” ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa told Reuters.
The ANC said in a statement on Sunday it had full confidence in Zuma and would investigate allegations by politicians that they were offered positions by the Guptas.
Zuma has acknowledged the Guptas are his friends but denies that the relationship is in anyway improper. Zuma’s son, Duduzane, is a director - along with Gupta family members - of at least six companies, documents show.
Splits within the ANC threaten to weaken its position ahead of local elections later in the year that are expected to provide a stern test for a party that has been in power since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.
Political uncertainty has also contributed to a slide in the rand this year and could unnerve ratings agencies as they consider whether to downgrade South Africa to “junk” status, a move which would significantly raise the cost of borrowing.
South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog said on Tuesday it may seek state funding to investigate the links between Zuma and the Guptas, an inquiry the family said it would welcome because it would end a “trial by innuendo and slander”.
Zuma sacked finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December and appointed a junior politician with no record of national financial management to the post, before backtracking and summoning past finance minister Pravin Gordhan a few days later.
Last week, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said that in December, the Gupta family offered him his boss’s job.
Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Mark Heinrich