South Africa's Zuma asks court to postpone Gupta report hearing

October 28, 2016 4:55 AM EDT

President Jacob Zuma speaks during his question and answer session in Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma has asked a court to postpone a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, when his application to delay the release of a report over allegations of political influence by his wealthy friends was due to be heard.

Presidency spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga said Zuma's lawyers wrote to the court on Thursday saying he wanted the investigation to be re-opened so that he could question witnesses himself and give evidence.

Brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who are close friends of Zuma and run businesses ranging from media to mining, are the subject of the report by the then Public Protector on allegations that they influenced the appointment of ministers.

Zuma has denied granting them undue influence and they have denied seeking it.

The release of the report by the Public Protector, a constitutionally mandated anti-graft official, was suspended on Oct. 14 by Zuma's application to the High Court.

Since then, the new Public Protector, who took office on Oct. 17, has said the investigation had been completed by Oct. 14.

Ngqulunga said when Zuma had filed his original application it was not made clear the investigation had finished.

"If it is final, then it changes the ball game a little. So the president now wants the investigation to be re-opened, so that he can answer any questions and make his own representations, before it is finalised," he said.

Ngqulunga said the decision on whether to delay the hearing had not yet been made by the court.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance party said it would challenge Zuma's request for a postponement, to avoid South Africans being subjected to "President Zuma’s political games and 11th hour interventions".

(Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Alison Williams)

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