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South Africa: Fresh calls for Zuma to step down after court setback

By Crystal Orderson
Posted on Thursday, 31 March 2016 14:49

Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said Zuma had failed to respect the country’s constitution after the embattled leader tried to challenge findings by the public protector on the abuse of funds involving his Nkandla home.

Mogoeng said Zuma “was duty-bound to comply with the binding remedial action recommended by the public protector’s report, but consistently failed to do so”.

We want Jacob Zuma to be impeached. The ANC was captured in a grand scheme

The court said the country’s parliament, controlled by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), had violated the constitution by trying to come up with its own report that sought to challenge public protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings.

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan is now expected to quantify the money Zuma is expected to pay back to Treasury following the court ruling.

In a statement after the ruling, Zuma’s office said it had “noted and respects the judgement handed down by the Constitutional Court and its findings relating to the public protector’s report on Nkandla, the president’s homestead”.

“The resident and government remain confident that our constitutional democracy remains strong and intact and affirms the Chapter 9 institutions established to strengthen and support the country’s democracy,” read part of the statement.

ANC legislators said they respected the Constitutional Court’s ruling but they would first study it before deciding on what action to take.

“We will, therefore, duly study the judgment, including a proper dissection and comprehension on its far-reaching implications on how parliament conducts its constitutional function in future,” ANC in parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said. “In the interim, we accept without reservations the orders made in the judgment.”

The Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said the judgement was “exceptionally significant for our growing democracy because it has also helped to shed some light on the contentious issue of the separation of powers.”

“This decision also reiterated and confirmed the president’s commitment, made during the court’s proceedings to refund the state, some of the money spent on Nkandla upgrades,” Cosatu said in a statement.

However, Zuma’s rivals came out guns blazing with the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) saying they want the president impeached for failing to respect the constitution.

“We want Jacob Zuma to be impeached. The ANC was captured in a grand scheme,” said DA leader Mmusi Maimane. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema said it would ‘physically’ prevent Zuma from addressing parliament in future because the ruling had shown that he was unfit to rule.

EFF and the DA took the case to the Constitutional Court after the government said Zuma would only pay part of the money that runs into thousands of dollars.

Another opposition party represented in parliament, Inkatha Freedom Party was cautious in its reaction to the court ruling. “The chief justice has given us cause for hope the judgment is more far-reaching than many of the experts thought it would be, and for that we are grateful,” the party’s chief whip Narend Singh said.

Other organisations such as Corruption Watch said the court had re-asserted the mandate of the public protector. “We are naturally delighted that the court has decided that the findings of the public protector are binding, an outcome that we have consistently contended for in both the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court,” Corruption Watch director David Lewis said.

“However, we also contend that, the legal position aside, the president has always been under an ethical obligation to defend and promote the work of Chapter 9 institutions like the public protector, an obligation that he and senior ministers of state have long flouted.”

Zuma has been under pressure to step down due to a number of scandals that have blighted his leadership but observers say it would be difficult for the ANC to recall him like the party did with his predecessor Thabo Mbeki.

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