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Africa

South Africa: Court ruling to determine Zuma's refund

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma surprised many when he offered to pay back some of the taxpayer’s money used for upgrades at his private home. Opposition parties are now calling for a trial and his resignation.

About $23 million (18 million euros) was used for security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma's private residence at Nkandla.

In an independent investigation, Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela said Zuma unduely benefited in the state-funded upgrade and recommended he pays back part of the fund.

Zuma had previosly said he did not owe the state a refund. Earlier this week, he said he would allow the country's auditor general and finance ministry to determine how much he should pay back.

Private home for President Jacob Zuma(Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Zuma's private home Upgrades is about 216 million rand (18 million euro)

The upgrades to Zuma's home included a football pitch and a pool which security authorities insisted was a necessary measure for fighting fires at the estate.

Last year, a mass brawl erupted in parliament after a member of an opposition party interrupted Zuma's state of the nation speech with chants for him to "pay back the money."

Zuma must go

The slogan 'Zuma must pay' is dominating the agenda of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) party led by firebrand politician and stark Zuma critic Julius Malema.

EFF and the main opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA), approached the country's constitutional court to press for corruption charges against President Zuma. The constitutional court is holding a preliminary hearing on Tuesday (09.02.2016).

Even though Zuma has offered to pay back part of the Nkandla fund as suggested by the anti graft watchdog, some opposition leaders told DW that they are unsatisfied with the move.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane rejected Zuma's proposal calling for further and careful scrutiny.

"It is important to note the fact that on Tuesday [09.02.2016], we will proceed with the court action." Maimane told DW.

South Africans protests (picture alliance/AA/A. Hendricks)

Pressure Mounts on Zuma to resign

An EFF politician said their intention behind the court hearing is to pursue accountability on the part of President Zuma and to press him to uphold the supremacy of the constitution, which gives powers to the public protector.

Zuma expected to stay on

Calls mounted for Zuma, 73, to step down late last year after his firing of popular finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene.

His decision sent the country's currency, the rand, into free fall. Nationwide marches against Zuma have been held countrywide with further protests planned for February 11, a day before he delivers his next state of the nation speech.

Nene was highly regarded by investors for his fiscal discipline and for being a voice of financial reason in a cabinet often accused of frivolous spending.

Before his dismissal, he had butted heads with Zuma over spending priorities while South Africa, which has the most industrialized economy in Africa, is under pressure from a fall in commodity prices, rising inflation, crumbling energy infrastructure, unemployment and the worst drought in more than a century. It remains to be seen how long President Zuma will stand opposition's pressure calling for his resignation.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga says Zuma's public spending on his private home does not threaten his job."It appears that there's no recourse within the ANC against the president, he is still in charge." Mathekga told DW.

South Africa parliament in Cape Town

Opposition parties EFF and DA push for accountability

Jacob Zuma is serving his second term in office until 2019. He was first elected by parliament in 2009 and reelected in 2014.

Mathekga says even though Zuma will not be forced to step down after a decision by the constitutional court, but the court's ruling might leave his image seriously bruised and battered.

Zuma has faced significant legal challenges including rape in 2005 but was acquitted. He also fought a long legal battle over allegations of racketeering and corruption, resulting from his financial advisor Schabir Shaik's conviction for corruption and fraud.

On 6 April 2009, the National Prosecuting Authority decided to drop the charges citing political interference.

Thuso Khumalo in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

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