South African court reserves ruling as Zuma admits graft

Police minister had defended expenditure as necessary to boost security at rural home

Thursday February 11 2016

South African president Jacob Zuma. PHOTO | AFP

South African president Jacob Zuma. PHOTO | AFP  

By BBC
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JOHANNESBURG

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has made a U-turn in court over his refusal to repay some of the $23m (Sh2.4bn) of state money used to upgrade his home.

The South African Constitutional Court (Concourt) reserved judgment on the case involving alleged corruption in relation to President Zuma.

The case was taken to the highest court in the country by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Democratic Alliance (DA), with support from Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

The applicants want the Concourt to rule whether the failure to comply with remedial action recommended by Ms Madonsela constituted a breach of constitutional duties by Parliament and the president.

Mr Zuma’s lawyer admitted he was wrong to ignore an anti-corruption watchdog’s report to pay back money spent on features such as a swimming pool.

The opposition brought the case, hoping it will open the way for impeachment proceedings against the president.

Thousands of people protested outside court, shouting “Zuma must fall”.

Police put up a strong show of force, as the protesters, led by Julius Malema’s left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), marched to the court in the main city, Johannesburg.

AGAINST CORRUPTION

The protest was against “corruption and cronyism” in government, the EFF said.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) also organised its own demonstration.

The governing African National Congress (ANC) denounced the marches as a “political exercise”.  The opposition parties want the Constitutional Court to rule that Mr Zuma flouted the constitution by ignoring a 2014 report by the anti-corruption watchdog, known as the Public Protector, that he should repay the money, as he had “unduly benefited” from the upgrade.

At the time, the police minister defended the expenditure as necessary security upgrades, saying the swimming pool was, in fact, a fire pool that could be used in the event a fire broke out at the residence in Mr Zuma’s home village of Nkandla.

An amphitheatre, cattle enclosure and chicken run were also built.

Mr Zuma’s lawyer Jeremy Gauntlett conceded in court that the report was “binding” on the president, and he was prepared to repay the money within 90 days.

However, he denied that Mr Zuma had violated the constitution. 

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