By Nqobile Dludla
South Africa’s main opposition said on Friday it would take any steps necessary to remove President Jacob Zuma from his post, a day after a top court ruled he had flouted the Constitution over renovations to his private home.
Top leaders of Zuma’s ruling African National Congress party were due to hold meetings to formulate a response to the Constitutional Court ruling, which held that Zuma had failed to uphold the constitution by ignoring instructions to pay back some of the $16 million in state money spent on the renovations.
The opposition has launched impeachment proceedings against the president, which are unlikely to be successful because of the ANC’s strong majority in parliament. But some South Africans believe the scandal could still bring down the 73-year-old leader by persuading some in the ANC to abandon him.
“We cannot have Jacob Zuma and the Constitution in one parliament. Both those things cannot co-exist,” opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane told a news conference.
The DA was joined on Friday by the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO), the party that claims the legacy of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, seeking to remove Zuma over the renovations to his vast Nkandla compound in his native KwaZulu-Natal province.
“For the sake of our country and its people, President Zuma should summon the very last amount of conscience, if he still has any, and resign,” AZAPO said in a statement.
The scandal over Nkandla is arguably the biggest yet to hit Zuma, who has fended off accusations of corruption, influence peddling and even rape since before he took office in 2009. Zuma has always maintained his innocence and accused political opponents of concocting accusations to smear him.
The judicial rebuke might however embolden an anti-Zuma faction within the ANC to challenge his leadership. The erstwhile liberation movement has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994, when Nelson Mandela became the first black president.
“Now is the time for the ANC to remove Zuma,” Boikie Motsi, 43, a car guard stationed at a Johannesburg park, said to Reuters on Friday.
Zizi Godwa, ANC spokesman, did not immediately respond to request for comment on Friday. A party official told Reuters on Thursday the party’s top six leaders were due to hold an urgent meeting to discuss the implications of the court findings.
In 2014, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, a constitutionally mandated anti-graft watchdog, identified a swimming pool, cattle enclosure, chicken run, amphitheatre and visitor centre as upgrades to the Nkandla compound that were not related to security and that Zuma must therefore pay for.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng gave the Treasury 60 days in which to determine their “reasonable cost”, after which Zuma would have a further 45 days to pay. Early estimates of the bill were 10 million rand ($680,000), Madonsela said.
“It is very pleasing to know that money that people paid tax for is now gong back to the Treasury and instead of going towards Nkandla it can go to building hospitals and schools,” Tumi Mahlangu, 23, a salesperson at an e-ciggarete kiosk in a Johannesburg mall.
The opposition DA also called for parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete to resign after the Constitutional Court ruled that the national assembly had also broken the law over the Nkandla renovations.