The Nelson Mandela Foundation has sharply criticized South African President Jacob Zuma, saying "political meddling for private interests" during his tenure has weakened state institutions and poses a threat to the country's democracy.

The statement released Tuesday is unusual because the foundation has avoided direct commentary on political disputes while focusing on equality, racism and other themes. It comes, however, amid an outcry in South Africa over Zuma, who has lost popularity even within his own ruling party because of scandals.

Also Tuesday, a lawyer for Zuma argued in court against the release of a report by a state watchdog agency about allegations that a business family linked to Zuma sought to influence some Cabinet post selections. Opposition lawyers say the report should be released.