Home News S.African president battles to survive torrid year

S.African president battles to survive torrid year

Published on 29/11/2016

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has survived an attempt by members of his ANC party to oust him from office in the latest episode of a year of controversies, setbacks and humiliating court rulings.

Here are his five toughest days of 2016:

– Chicken coop 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 $500,000, 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 hundreds of 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 had pushed for the charges to be reinstated. More court hearings are expected soon.

– Election flop –

The ANC suffered a major reversal 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, won 53 percent of the votes — its worst-ever electoral performance, though it remains easily the biggest party.

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

The ANC has also been accused of losing touch with the masses, with the government failing to tackle high unemployment, corruption and slow 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 had been quizzed by the watchdog over the accusations and he went to court to try to block the report’s release.

His lawyers then abandoned his legal fight in a last-minute U-turn, leading to the unveiling of the report. 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.

– Colleagues rebel –

A routine ANC meeting on the weekend of November 26 and 27 turned into a fight for Zuma’s political life when a surprise rebellion, led by at least four ministers, nearly forced him from office.

At a hotel near Pretoria, Zuma’s loyalists launched a counter-offensive to shore up his support in tense scenes that were finally resolved late on Monday night.

Gwede Mantashe, the ANC secretary general, admitted that Zuma survived only after “robust, honest, candid and at times difficult discussions”.