Johannesburg - South African businesses and citizens “require courage” to “protect their sovereignty” and must urge President Jacob Zuma to quit before his term ends in 2019, the chairperson of the world’s third-biggest gold producer said.
The business community “must accept it’s a valid voice,” AngloGold Ashanti chairperson Sipho Pityana said in a speech at a mining conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
“If we each continue to keep our heads down, protecting our own narrow self-interest, the business environment that we’re so desperately trying to protect with our silence will simply become unmanageable.
“It’s our duty to call for him to leave office before his term ends,” Pityana said. “Do this and do it now. We have to seize the moment and save South Africa before it’s too late.”
He received a standing ovation from mining executives attending the event.
Zuma has faced calls to quit since the nation’s top court ruled in March that he violated the constitution by refusing to repay taxpayer money spent on upgrading his private home. He’s spooked investors by sparring with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for control of the Treasury, tax-collection agency and state companies. He’s also fighting a lawsuit filed by opposition parties aimed at forcing prosecutors to reinstate 783 graft counts against him that were dropped just weeks before he became president in 2009.
Critics accuse Zuma of allowing the Gupta family, who are his friends and in business with his son, to use their connections for financial gain. Both Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.
Pityana built on comments he made last month, when he urged business leaders to boycott international tours with government officials to promote investment in the country and to demand Zuma’s resignation.
“While the debate over state capture rages and corruption grows, we have a president who at best is missing in action and at worst he is a leader at the very root of this crisis,” he said. “Zuma must go. For the sake of our county, he has to go.”
Business needs to meet with the ruling African National Congress and the president personally to persuade them that Zuma has to step down, Pityana said.
“They say nothing about the consequences of having a president who fails to live up to his constitutional obligations,” Pityana said of the ruling party in a separate interview. “It just begins to impact negatively on the ANC its image and its reputation.”
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