New corruption trouble for President Zuma – can he still duck and dive?
29 Dec 2017

South African president Jacob Zuma has been dealt a fresh blow by the Constitutional Court, which on Friday ruled that parliament had failed to hold him accountable regarding the misuse of state funds to upgrade his country residence.

State funding in the tune of $15 million was splashed on the Nkandla home of Zuma, who is facing multiple charges of corruption, money laundering and fraud.

He has also been linked to the wealthy and influential Gupta family, who are accused of corruption and money laundering involving major South African state units and British banks.

Both the Guptas and Zuma deny the charges levelled against them.

Generally, Zuma has been no push-over, and has resisted calls and even mass protests for him to step down.

However, today’s decision by the country’s highest court is a key one, and could likely trigger an investigation regarding Zuma, on grounds of impeachment.

Here’s what South African experts told KYC360 about the court ruling and its implications:

Johannesburg-based Ben Theron, anti-corruption campaigner and Chief Operations Officer at OUTA (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse), said:

The news today is a welcome development. For a long time Jacob Zuma has ducked and dived and parliament has protected him, it’s time he faced the music for a change.

What’s next? On the practical side, following the court ruling, parliament needs to put in place measures to ensure that any trial will be help according to the law. But this is a Constitutional Court ruling – so there are no loopholes for him this time round. He cannot even appeal against the court’s decision.

However, the challenge lies in the fact that at the moment we have in Zuma a president of the country who is no longer president of the ruling party. What this means is that he may be recalled by the ruling party from his position as president.

Once he steps down as president, he does not have to appear before the National Assembly to face the charges. The issue here is time – how he will move within the next few weeks or months will be an important determining factor.

What will happen in the next few weeks will also spell out how Cyril Ramaphosa handles the matter. He now has the backing of the courts and hence can take certain measures against Zuma. We will have to wait and see.

Johannesburg based Dr Adrian Saville, chief executive, Cannon Asset Managers, said:

The outcome of the recently-ended ANC conference was a generally very positive one in that we now have someone with a robust and good record at the head of the party – Cyril Ramaphosa. This presents the possibility that he may push for Zuma to be impeached. Zuma may also face a vote of no confidence.

In South Africa, impeachment can occur if there is, firstly, a serious violation of the Constitution or law, and secondly, if there is serious misconduct; and thirdly, an inability to function in office. My assessment is that Zuma fails on all three.

Zuma needs to be recalled by the ANC to stand down as president for the sake of the good of the country. Or he should be impeached and replaced as soon as possible. He should not be allowed to give the State of the Nation address or speech, which is due early next year.

What also needs to take place is that once he is replaced as president, he needs to come before a balanced judiciary and public prosecutor that will not be biased in his favour as was the case previously.

Regarding whether he’ll likely find a way out of the mess this time round, we know from past behaviour that Zuma challenges and obfuscates. I think it makes good sense to expect more of the same. However, it may now be the case that he will have to do this with his “own” money rather than the public purse.

– By Irene Madongo

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