South African judge orders graft report released amid anti-Zuma protest

A South African judge ruled on Wednesday that a report over alleged influence peddling in government should be released, after President Jacob Zuma dropped a court bid to delay its publication and thousands marched against him.

Reuters reported that police fired stun grenades and used water cannon to disperse demonstrators who had marched to the Union Buildings, the seat of government where Zuma’s offices are located in the capital Pretoria. Outside the court deliberating whether to release the report, protesters carried “Zuma must go” placards.

The report by the Public Protector, a constitutionally mandated anti-graft official, looks into allegations of corruption that have brought on the biggest crisis of Zuma’s presidency, costing him support within the ruling party.

Zuma denies providing special favours for wealthy friends, including three brothers who also deny wrongdoing. The report’s publication had been halted on October 14 after Zuma appealed to the High Court to block it.

The affair has rattled markets in Africa’s most industrialized economy, which faces the risk of ratings downgrades later this year. Divisions within the African National Congress (ANC) have widened since the ruling party suffered its worst-ever local election results in August.

The rand rose by 2 percent to the dollar and bonds firmed. Analysts said allowing the report to be released was an indication the country still had strong institutions.

“The public protector is ordered to publish the report forthwith and by no later than 1700 (1100 ET) on 2 November, 2016,” Judge Dunstan Mlambo said to applause in court.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the party welcomed the decision.

Zuma withdrew his court bid in the interests of justice, the Presidency said in a statement. It also said Zuma would consider “the contents of the report in order to ascertain whether it should be a subject of a court challenge.”

Zuma’s lawyer, Anthea Platt, had earlier told the court she had been instructed to withdraw the application to delay publication and offer to pay the costs for the hearing.

Protesters also demanded that state prosecutor Shaun Abrahams be removed from office. Abrahams had pressed charges of fraud against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, but then dropped them on Monday after popular support for him from the worlds of politics and business.