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Africa

S. Africa's top court orders Zuma to return state funds

South Africa's Constitutional Court has set President Jacob Zuma a deadline to pay back some of the $16 million in state funds spent on his Nkandla residence. The opposition says it will launch impeachment proceedings.

South Africa's Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that President Jacob Zuma failed to "uphold, defend and respect" the constitution when he ignored the instructions of an anti-graft watchdog to repay some of the $16 million (14 million euros) in taxpayers' money spent on his private home.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, the country's ombudswoman, ruled in 2014 that Zuma had "benefited unduly" from work on the Nkandla property in KwaZulu-Natal province and that he should repay some of the funds.

The Constitutional Court gave Zuma 105 days to repay the "reasonable cost of non-security upgrades" to his residence. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said "the president must personally pay the amount determined by the national treasury."

The treasury has 60 days to calculate the costs, Zuma has 45 days thereafter to pay the bill.

Madonsela's report said non-security improvements included a cattle enclosure, amphitheater, visitor center, chicken run and swimming pool.

Südafrika Richter Mogoeng Mogoeng in Pretoria

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said Zuma should not have ignored the watchdog's recommendations

Zuma refused to comply with Madonsela's report two years ago and ordered investigations by the public works and police ministries that largely exonerated him.

The Constitutional Court also ruled on Thursday that the president must reprimand ministers involved in the matter.

Criticism of parliament

The unanimous ruling by the 11-judge court is the latest twist in the Nkandla sage that now adds financial damage to the political wounds it has already inflicted on Zuma.

Zuma's party, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), said it was studying the decision in detail, given the "serious nature" of its findings.

The ruling was also a clear vindication of Madonsela, whom the chief justice described as a "biblical David" fighting against the Goliath of corruption.

Mogoeng also said the National Assembly, South Africa's parliament, had failed in its obligations to hold Zuma to account in the spending scandal.

Subry Govender, a DW correspondent in South Africa, said opposition leaders, trade unionists, civil society and political commentators responded to the ruling by praising the court for protecting South African democracy and exposing corruption.

Südafrika Verfassungsgericht in Johannesburg

The Constitutional Court has been praised for protecting South African democracy

Standing outside the court in downtown Johannesburg, Mmusi Maimane, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party, told reporters Zuma should be removed from office and said he would table a parliamentary motion to have him impeached.

The DA brought the case to court along with the far left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, which has also pledged to press for Zuma's impeachement.

EFF leader Julius Malema said the court ruling was "reason enough for the president to step down with immediate effect."

The ANC majority in parliament will almost certainly give political cover against any attempt to unseat Zuma, but the court ruling may embolden opponents within the ruling party to challenge him.

Thursday's court ruling comes as Zuma is weathering another set of corruption allegations. Deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas said he was offered the top job in the treasury by the Guptas, an Indian business family said to hold huge sway over the president.

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