Home News S.African president battles through turbulent year

S.African president battles through turbulent year

Published on 10/11/2016

After weathering scandals that would have ended most political careers, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma secured a resounding victory Thursday in a no-confidence vote against him in parliament.

The 214-126 result means Zuma has survived six votes of no-confidence since 2010 thanks to the ANC party’s large parliamentary majority.

But the heated debate before the vote drew further attention to his mounting troubles after a year of setbacks and humiliating court rulings.

– Homestead scandal –

The multi-million dollar graft scandal stands out as one of the biggest blights on Zuma’s presidency after he was found to have benefitted from taxpayer-funded upgrades to Nkandla, his private rural homestead.

A probe by the public watchdog revealed that the upgrades included a litany of non-security renovations, including a swimming pool and chicken coop.

On March 31 this year, the scandal came to a dramatic climax when the Constitutional Court found the president guilty of violating his oath of office by refusing to pay back the money.

Defeated in court and facing mounting public criticism, he relented and paid $542,000 (500,000 euros), a sum set by the treasury.

– 783 fraud charges –

A High Court ruling on June 24 dealt Zuma another heavy blow when it rejected his application to appeal against a decision to reinstate nearly 800 corruption charges that were dropped in 2009.

The 783 criminal charges relate to allegations of corruption, racketeering and money laundering over a multi-billion dollar arms procurement deal by the government in the late 1990s.

The dropping of the charges paved the way for him to become president of the ANC and, soon afterwards, to take power nationally following elections.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance party has pushed for the charges to be reinstated, with more court hearings expected soon.

– Election setback –

Under Zuma’s leadership, the ANC suffered a major election humiliation in municipal elections on August 3, losing control of three cities, including the administrative capital Pretoria and the economic hub Johannesburg.

The ANC, in power nationally since 1994, recorded 53 percent of the votes — still easily the biggest party — as opposition parties made significant gains.

Factionalism under Zuma was blamed for the poor showing at the polls, which could point to deeper trouble at the next general election in 2019.

The ANC has been accused of losing touch with the masses, with the government failing to tackle high unemployment, corruption and slowing economic growth.

– Bought by a family? –

On November 2, a much-awaited report was released probing links between Zuma and the politically-connected Gupta business family. It detailed damaging allegations of their influence over his government.

Zuma was quizzed by the watchdog over the accusations and he then went to court to try to block the report’s release.

His lawyers abandoned his legal fight in a dramatic U-turn, and the report was unveiled. It ordered a judicial investigation into alleged graft and possible criminal activity.

The report — including accounts of bribes and suggestions that Zuma had broken the executive ethics law — led to unprecedented calls from within the ANC for him to resign.