South African president 'failed to uphold constitution' in home funding scandal
Published 31/03/2016 | 10:46
South African president Jacob Zuma "failed to uphold" the constitution when he did not pay back some of the millions of dollars in state funds used to upgrade his home, the country's Constitutional Court has ruled.
The ruling could significantly weaken the leader, who is fending off multiple accusations of alleged misconduct at the highest levels of government although he still retains the support of powerful factions in his party, the African National Congress (ANC).
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said it would immediately begin impeachment proceedings against Mr Zuma.
While parliament has the power to remove him, ruling party MPs defeated a no-confidence vote against Mr Zuma earlier this year.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng also said that parliament, which is dominated by the ANC, had failed in its obligations by not holding Mr Zuma to account in the spending scandal.
Mr Zuma is already under scrutiny because of allegedly improper links to the Guptas, a wealthy business family in South Africa.
Questions about the extent of the Gupta family's influence have exposed some divisions within the ruling party, particularly after the country's deputy finance minister said the family directly offered him the finance minister job in December.
This was around the time that the incumbent, Nhlanhla Nene, was sacked in a move that rattled markets.
Speaking for South Africa's highest court, Mr Mogoeng said Mr Zuma should not have ignored a state watchdog's recommendations that he should reimburse state funds spent on his home, known as Nkandla.
Mr Zuma "failed to uphold, defend, and respect the constitution as the supreme law of the land", Mr Mogoeng said.
Mr Zuma's office had said he was willing to reimburse some of the more than 20 million US dollars (£14 million) spent on Nkandla.
His critics said the offer was an attempt to avoid a court hearing, and opposition MPs took the case to court anyway.