JOHANNESBURG • South African President Jacob Zuma told state television yesterday he was innocent and that efforts to oust him were unfair, as his ruling ANC party announced its support for a parliamentary no-confidence vote set for today to remove him.
Piling further pressure on the beleaguered leader, police yesterday raided the luxury home of Mr Zuma's friends, the Gupta brothers, as part of an anti-graft probe.
In his first response to intense efforts by the African National Congress (ANC) for him to quit, Mr Zuma - who has been dogged by scandal throughout his political life - said he was being "victimised".
"There's nothing I've done wrong," a relaxed but indignant Mr Zuma said during a nearly hour-long interview with South Africa's state broadcaster SABC. "I don't think it's fair. I think it's unfair."
When asked point-blank if he would step aside, he avoided the question and continued to allege a lack of principle in moves by the party's national executive committee to oust him.
He did say he would make a formal statement later yesterday.
He did not comment on the police raids, which marked a dramatic tightening of the net around the 75-year-old and the political faction around him accused of milking state resources for their own ends.
Even if he refuses to quit, with the ANC backing the opposition-led no-confidence motion today, Mr Zuma appears to have run out of road after nine years in office marked by political tumult and economic stagnation.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose election as head of the party in December marked the beginning of the end of Mr Zuma's tenure, could be sworn in as head of state as early as tomorrow.
"After we have voted for the removal of the President of the Republic - and depending on the availability of the Chief Justice - we will also elect a new president," Mr Mthembu told a news conference.
The speed of Mr Zuma's downfall after two weeks of dithering by the ANC has stunned South Africa.
The early morning raid resulted in three arrests, the police's elite Hawks unit said. The SABC said a Gupta family member was among those detained. A senior judicial source said police expected to arrest up to seven more people and that Gupta family members would be among them.
Mr Zuma and the Guptas, a family of wealthy Indian-born businessmen, deny any wrongdoing.
A Gupta family lawyer said he could not comment on the raid because he had yet to see the search warrant.
Shortly after dawn, a dozen Hawks police officers sealed off a street leading to the Gupta mansion in Johannesburg's upscale Saxonwold suburb. One blocked access to Reuters, saying: "This is a crime scene."
Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi said the raid was part of an investigation into influence-peddling allegations that are also the focus of a judicial inquiry into wider corruption involving the Guptas, dubbed "state capture" in local media.
Mr Zuma has been dogged by scandal since he became president in 2009. He is fighting the reinstatement of corruption charges, which were dismissed before he became president, over a US$2.52 billion government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s.
One case relates to 783 payments he allegedly received linked to the arms deal.
Many graft allegations against him have centred on the Guptas, who are accused of unfairly obtaining lucrative government contracts and even being able to choose ministerial appointments. Their commercial empire stretches from mining to media.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE