Zuma apologizes for spending scandal
South African President Jacob Zuma apologized Friday for spending more than $20 million in state funds on his private residence, but he did not, as some had predicted, offer to step down to atone for his actions.
Addressing the country in a nationally televised speech, Zuma said he had acted “in good faith” and denied any wrongdoing was involved when he used state funds to add a swimming pool and amphitheater to his private residence.
“I wish to emphasize that I never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the constitution, which is the supreme law of the republic,” Zuma said.
South Africa’s top court ruled Thursday that Zuma did violate the constitution by ignoring the state anti-corruption agency’s recommendation that he return part of the $20 million spent on his home improvements.
Under the court’s ruling, the national treasury will decide which of the upgrades at Zuma’s house were related to security, and will order Zuma to reimburse the cost of any other expenses, such as the swimming pool and a cattle enclosure.
Opposition leaders have been calling for Zuma’s impeachment, but that seems unlikely. Impeachment requires a vote by two-thirds of South Africa’s parliament, in which Zuma’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party holds a large majority of seats.
Following Zuma’s address, ANC General Secretary Gwede Mantashe told a news conference that the party’s top leadership was behind Zuma.
“The ANC is convinced that there was no intention on the part of the president, as he himself has said, and the ANC members in parliament to deliberately act inconsistently with the constitution,” he said.
Mantashe also accused the opposition of “overreacting” and said their calls for Zuma’s impeachment were an “election platform ploy” that was not genuine.
Opposition party leader Mmusi Maimane called on the ruling party lawmakers Friday to prove their respect for the constitution and act against Zuma.
“If you are serious about that, then you can’t have Jacob Zuma,” he said.
Earlier this year, the parliament defeated a no-confidence vote in Zuma. In doing so, the Constitutional Court said Thursday, parliament failed to meet its obligation to hold Zuma accountable for his lavish spending.
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