South Africa’s top court ruled that parliament failed to hold President Jacob Zuma to account in a scandal over multi-million-dollar upgrades to his private home, in a decision that intensified opposition calls for the president to be impeached.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling followed its conclusion last year that Zuma violated the constitution when he benefited inappropriately from state funding for his Nkandla home. It was one of a series of scandals that have damaged the reputation of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the main anti-apartheid movement leading South Africa since the first all-race elections in 1994.
Zuma has survived opposition efforts to oust him in votes of no confidence in parliament, where the ANC party has a majority. Frustrated by setbacks in the National Assembly, the opposition went to court as part of their campaign to impeach Zuma, who has lost support even among ruling party loyalists.
Earlier this month Zuma has been replaced as party leader by deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, known one of the richest people in South Africa, with an estimated net worth of more than $450 million. Cyril Ramaphosa is also known as a critic of the corruption that has undermined South Africa’s economy.
“We conclude that the Assembly did not hold the president to account,” said Chris Jafta, a Constitutional Court judge who read out the ruling.
He called for parliament to institute rules that would provide for a president’s removal. Parliament said in a statement that it would comply with the instruction.
The Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s main opposition party, said its motion to impeach Zuma should be debated in parliament “as soon as reasonably possible.”
The court ruling cited a constitutional provision says parliament “may remove” a president from office by a two-thirds majority for a “serious violation” of the law, as well as a separate requirement that constitutional obligations must be “performed diligently and without delay.”
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng disagreed with the majority ruling, describing it as judicial overreach.
The ANC ruling party said it will study the ruling and discuss it at a high-level meeting on January 10 after holiday.