South Africa’s top court delivers Zuma impeachment blow

Constitutional Court last year found the president guilty of violating his oath of office

Johannesburg: South Africa’s top court on Friday ruled that parliament failed to hold embattled President Jacob Zuma accountable for using state funds to upgrade his private home, in a move that could trigger impeachment proceedings.

The opposition had gone to court arguing that the Speaker of parliament had failed to institute appropriate processes to hold Zuma accountable for his failure to abide by the anti-corruption watchdog’s recommendations in 2014 over refurbishments at his rural home in the eastern KwaZulu Natal province using some $15 million (Dh55 million) of taxpayers money.

The scandal came to a dramatic climax when the Constitutional Court last year found the president guilty of violating his oath of office by refusing to pay back the money.

“We conclude that [National] Assembly did not hold the president to account,” said Constitutional Court judge Chris Jafta.

“The failure by the National Assembly to make rules regulating removal of the president… constitutes a violation,” of the constitution, the court said.

It ordered that the national assembly “must comply” with the constitution to make rules that could be used for the removal of the president “without delay”.

Defeated in court and facing mounting public criticism, Zuma later relented and paid $500,000, a sum set by the treasury.

In power since 2009, Zuma stepped down last week as president of the ruling African National Congress party after a 10-year term marked by numerous damning court judgements against him.

Friday’s ruling is expected to pile up more pressure on the beleaguered leader.

Zuma was succeeded by his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa in a tightly fought contest, in which his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma also ran.

He is due to resign as state president after general elections in 2019.

The ANC’s deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said the party had noted the ruling and would “discuss its full implications” when the party decision-making body the National Executive Committee meets in just under two weeks on January 10, 2018.


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