Heavily armed South African police raided the luxury home of the Gupta family Wednesday as part of a probe into allegations the three brothers had corrupt links with President Jacob Zuma, who has been ordered by the ruling ANC to quit as head of state.
The raid marks a dramatic escalation in the pressure on Zuma and the political faction around who are accused of milking state resources for their own ends. However, it remains unclear whether the 75-year-old will throw in the towel, or dig in deeper.
The early morning raid, which the police's elite Hawks unit said resulted in three arrests, took place amid reports Zuma was preparing to tell South Africa he was stepping down after nine years in office dogged by scandal and economic stagnation. The SABC, South Africa's state broadcaster, said a Gupta family member was among those detained.
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said Zuma would speak later in the morning local time and satellite trucks were in position at Pretoria's Union Buildings, the seat of government. However, Zuma's office denied there had been any "official communication" of an impending address.
Adding to the confusion, a copy of an email, purportedly from deputy presidential communications director Shadi Baloyi, circulated on Twitter telling Pretoria police that plans for a "special media briefing" by Zuma at 10:00 a.m. at the Union Buildings had been canceled.
"Kindly ignore my earlier request, as the briefing will not take place tomorrow," Baloyi wrote according to the unconfirmed email.
A senior judicial source said police expected to arrest up to seven more people and that top Gupta family members would be among them. "You can't bring a matter of this nature to court and not charge the people who have benefited the most," the source, who has knowledge of the police's moves, told Reuters.
Besides his controversial relationship with the Guptas, who were moved to South Africa from India in the early 1990s, Zuma has 783 counts of corruption outstanding against him relating to a US$2.5 billion state arms deal in the late 1990s.
Besides the pressure from the ANC, Zuma is facing a no-confidence motion in parliament brought by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters. That motion is set for Feb. 22.
South Africa's ruling ANC said it will support the motion of no-confidence if Zuma does not resign, the ANC's treasurer-general Paul Mashatile said later Wednesday. The party's chief whip Jackson Mthembu added that the ANC hoped to elect party leader Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the country on Thursday, after the no-confidence vote, or on Friday.