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By Nqobile Dludla
JOHANNESBURG, March 31 (Reuters) – South African President Jacob Zuma failed to “uphold, defend and respect” the constitution when he ignored the order of an anti-corruption watchdog to repay some of the $16 million spent to upgrade his private home, the Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday.
After delivering a stinging rebuke to the scandal-plagued leader, the court gave Zuma 105 days to repay the “reasonable cost” of non-security-related upgrades to his sprawling rural residence at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.
The unanimous ruling by the 11-judge court is the latest twist in a six-year saga over Nkandla that now adds financial damage to the political wounds it has already inflicted on Zuma.
It was also a clear vindication of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, a constitutionally mandated watchdog who was described by chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng as a “Biblical David” fighting against the Goliath of corruption.
The uncompromising nature of the verdict – Mogoeng described it as a “profound lesson” for South Africa’s young democracy – piles more pressure on Zuma, already feeling the heat from a string of scandals.
Standing outside the court in downtown Johannesburg, opposition leader Mmusi Maimane told reporters Zuma should be removed from office and said he would table a parliamentary motion to have him impeached.
Conclusion: Zuma is unfit to be president of the republic. I hope we can get on to the business of South Africans. Building our economy
— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) March 31, 2016
Zuma, a 73-year-old Zulu traditionalist, has been under fire since December when his abrupt sacking of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene sent the rand into a tail-spin.
The rand firmed to a near-four month high against the dollar as Mogoeng delivered his ruling.
The African National Congress’ majority in parliament will almost certainly give political cover against any attempt to impeach Zuma, but the ruling may embolden opponents within the ruling party to challenge him.
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