South Africa′s Jacob Zuma suffers legal setback over impeachment bid | News | DW | 29.12.2017
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South Africa's Jacob Zuma suffers legal setback over impeachment bid

South Africa's top court has ruled that Parliament did not hold President Jacob Zuma accountable over his use of state funds to upgrade his home. The court's ruling could trigger impeachment proceedings.

South African President Jacob Zuma was dealt another major legal blow on Friday after the country's Constitutional Court ruled Parliament failed to hold him accountable in a house upgrade scandal.

The court said that lawmakers must trigger a process that could see Zuma ousted from office should the measure be approved in Parliament.

Read moreOpinion: South Africa's ANC chooses pragmatism over corruption

What we know

  • The court said by not initiating measures to remove Zuma, Parliament failed to fulfill its obligation to oust a president found guilty of a "serious violation" of the law
  • The case was brought by the ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters and other small opposition parties
  • The decision follows the court's ruling last year that said Zuma violated the constitution by using state funds for his private home
  • Any impeachment proceeding would require a two-thirds majority to pass

Read moreSouth Africa: Ramaphosa's first test is to bust ANC corruption

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'Teflon president' Zuma survives again

How the ruling was received

Announcing the ruling, Constitutional Court Judge Chris Jafta said:

  • "Parliament did not hold the president to account" and lawmakers "must put in place a mechanism that could be used for the removal of the president from office." 
  • "Properly interpreted, Section 89 implicitly imposes an obligation on the assembly to make rules specially tailored for the removal of the president from office. By omitting to include such rules, the assembly has failed to fulfil this obligation."

Zuma's African National Congress (ANC) party, which has a majority in Parliament, said in a statement that they "will study the judgment and discuss its full implications" during a high-level meeting on January 10."

What was the scandal: Zuma used roughly $15 million (€12.5 million) in state funds to upgrade his Nkandla home. Last March, the Constitutional Court found that he violated the constitution and ordered him to pay back some of the funds. Zuma has since repaid around $631,000 — a sum determined by the Treasury as the "reasonable cost" he should bear.

Read moreSouth Africa High Court orders President Jacob Zuma to set up influence inquiry

Presidency plagued by graft charges: In October, a court ruled to reinstate nearly 800 charges of corruption and fraud that were dropped in 2009. Furthermore, his association with the Gupta family, who are accused of looting state funds and influencing Cabinet appointments, has caused outrage among South Africans.

How has he stayed in office: The president has survivedseveral votes of no confidence in recent years with the help of the ANC's parliamentary majority.

Read moreSouth Africa's power family, the Guptas: What you need to know

What happens next: The court's decision is likely to renew pressure on Zuma to resign. This time, however, he is in a weakened position with the ANC. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a vocal critic of corruption, was elected to replace Zuma as party head this month.

rs/rt (AP, Reuters)

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