S.Africa’s Zuma faces torrent of calls to go after court rebuke
South African President Jacob Zuma faced a chorus of calls Friday to step down after a court ruled that he breached the constitution in a judgement that engulfed him in a fresh bout of controversy.
Zuma retains widespread loyalty within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) whose lawmakers dominate parliament, but his tarnished image has shaken the party ahead of local elections.
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, hailed the damning verdict by the country’s top court that Zuma had violated the constitution in a dispute over public funds spent on his private home.
“This judgement is an immense victory for democracy, for the rule of law, and for the people of South Africa,” DA leader Mmusi Maimane told reporters on Friday.
“It simply cannot be business as usual when president Zuma has been found to have violated the constitution.”
The party has launched impeachment proceedings against Zuma but the move is likely to fail as it would require the support of a two-thirds majority in parliament.
But the attempt will keep Zuma’s misdeeds in the public eye ahead of the municipal elections later this year when the ANC risks losing control of Gauteng province, which includes the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The storm of press criticism focused on Zuma’s refusal to comply with an ombudswoman’s orders to repay money spent on a swimming pool, chicken run, cattle enclosure and amphitheatre at his rural homestead.
“There is only one way South Africa can escape a full-blown constitutional crisis… and that would be his resignation or dismissal,” said the Sowetan newspaper.
“He has no legal or moral authority to govern.”
The upgrades, which were valued in 2014 at 216 million rand (then $24 million), became a symbol of alleged corruption and greed within the ANC that has ruled since Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994 after the end of apartheid.
Zuma loyalists fought back to defend the president, who is due to retire in 2019 when his second term in office ends.
“We have learnt lessons from the judgement’ and wish to state it unequivocally’ unambiguously and categorically clear that we firmly stand behind the ANC President,” the influential ANC Women’s League said in a statement.
Zuma on Thursday issued a brief statement saying he accepted the Constitutional Court’s ruling.
His presidency has been rocked in recent months by his sacking of two finance ministers within days, and allegations that a wealthy business family had so much influence that they could appoint ministers.