Business, Finance & Economics

Jacob Zuma fires ministers, suspends police chief in anti-corruption drive (VIDEO)


Jacob Zuma, South Africa's president, visits Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange on September 19, 2011 in New York City.


Spencer Platt

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa has reportedly fired two cabinet ministers and suspended his police chief after they were implicated in the misuse of millions of dollars of public funds.

The Telegraph called the move by Zuma, who oversees the continent's largest economy, an attempt to dispel criticism that he is soft on corruption.

Zuma also named a panel of senior judges to investigate a $5 billion arms deal in which European companies including BAE Systems were alleged to have paid bribes in return for contracts. BAE has consistently denied the claims. 

Zuma himself was accused of corruptly benefiting from the multimillion-dollar arms procurement contracts, but charges against him were dropped in 2009, shortly before he became president, after prosecutors determined that the investigation was politically motivated, CNN reports.

Ministers Sicelo Shiceka and Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, and chief of police Bheki Cele, meantime, were named in a report by South Africa's Public Protector's office detailing misappropriation of taxpayer dollars.

The report found that Shiceka, minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, spent tens of thousands of dollars on a luxury trip to Switzerland "to visit a jailed lady friend," CNN reports.

He had reportedly told Zuma the trip was related to the FIFA 2010 World Cup, which South Africa was hosting.

Meanwhile, Mahlangu-Nkabinde, the former Public Works Minister, and Cele were reportedly punished for their roles in the illegal leasing of a new police headquarters, a deal worth millions.

Zuma said at a news conference Monday in Pretoria that 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."

Cele has been suspended on full pay pending the outcome of the inquiry, the Telegraph reports.

South Africa's previous police chief, Jackie Selebi, was convicted of corruption last year.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

President Zuma has come under fire for corruption allegations in his government, but moving against allies threatens to erode political support at a critical time. He is expected to lobby to stay at the helm of the ruling African National Congress at a party conference next year.