4 Apr 2016

Parliament to debate Zuma impeachment

8:59 am on 4 April 2016

South Africa's parliament will debate a motion to impeach President Jacob Zuma, the National Assembly speaker said, after a top court ruled the president had violated the constitution.

South African president Jacob Zuma in March 2016.

Jacob Zuma Photo: AFP

The country's constitutional court ruled on Thursday that Mr Zuma had failed to uphold the constitution by ignoring orders from the public protector that he repay some of the $16 million in state funds spent to renovate his private residence at Nkandla.

Since the ruling, opposition party leaders, ordinary South Africans and even an anti-apartheid activist jailed alongside Nelson Mandela have called on Mr Zuma to step down.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA), tabled the motion to have Mr Zuma impeached, and National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete told reporters "the debate on that motion has been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon."

The Africa National Congress majority in parliament will almost certainly give Mr Zuma political cover against the attempt to impeach him. But the judicial rebuke may embolden anti-Zuma factions within the ruling party to mount a challenge.

The unanimous ruling by the 11-judge constitutional court also criticised parliament for passing a resolution that purported to nullify Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's findings on the state spending on Zuma's private residence.

The scandal is arguably the biggest yet to hit Mr Zuma, who has fended off accusations of corruption, influence peddling and rape since before he took office in 2009.

On Friday, the 73-year-old president gave a televised address to the nation in which he apologised and said he would pay back some of the money, as ordered. He said that he never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the constitution.

- Reuters

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs