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South Africa Constitutional Court finds parliament failed to hold Zuma to account

SOUTH Africa’s Constitutional Court put the cat among the pigeons yesterday, ruling that parliament failed to hold President Jacob Zuma to account over public spending on his private residence.

The country’s top court ordered the national assembly to institute rules “without delay” to provide for the president’s removal.

The ruling, read out in court by Justice Chris Jafta, was in response to a petition by three opposition parties: the Democratic Alliance, Economic Freedom Fighters and Congress of the People.

They sought a ruling by the court requiring assembly speaker Baleka Mbete to take necessary and appropriate steps to determine the seriousness of the president’s violations.

“We conclude that the assembly did not hold the president to account,” said Mr Jafta, ordering Mr Zuma and parliament to pay costs.

The ruling was not, however, unanimous, with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng slamming the majority ruling as judicial overreach, insisting that it hit the separation of powers.

“The majority has imposed its preference on parliament in circumstances where separation of powers forbade it,” he said in his judgement, which he asked Mr Jafta to read into the record in full.

Yesterday’s ruling follows the court’s conclusion last year that Mr Zuma violated the constitution in benefiting inappropriately from state funding for his home in Nkandla.

The African National Congress, which elected Cyril Ramaphosa at its conference in Soweto earlier this month to replace Mr Zuma as ANC president, responded that it will study the ruling and discuss it at a high-level meeting on January 10.

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