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south africa politics

The South African parliament is debating the impeachment of President Jacob Zuma after a court ruling against him in Nkandla private residence case.

The impeachment motion is sponsored by the opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA).

The DA says Jacob Zuma is unfit to govern after failing to repay public money used to upgrade his private residence.

The governing African National Congress (ANC) is expected to defeat the motion.

Opposition lawmakers called for speaker Baleka Mbete to step down, after accusing her of taking sides.

Baleka Mbete announced a short adjournment to consult parliamentary officials, delaying the start of the debate.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

The ANC has denounced the impeachment proceedings as a publicity stunt.

The DA said it would demand a secret ballot in the hope that ANC backbenchers would defy the party by helping it obtain the two-thirds majority – 267 lawmakers out of 400 – required in the lower house, the National Assembly, to impeach Jacob Zuma.

However, Baleka Mbete has rejected the proposal, saying it is not allowed in terms of parliamentary rules, local media reports say.

The DA has 89 seats in parliament and all opposition parties combined 151.

Jacob Zuma is the first president to face an impeachment vote since minority rule ended in 1994.

He has been dogged by allegations of corruption since before he was elected president in 2009.

Jacob Zuma was accused of taking bribes over an arms deal but he denied the allegation and the charges were controversially dropped just before he took office.

He later found himself at the center of controversy over the use of $23 million of public money to upgrade his private home in the rural area of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province.

In 2014, South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog Thuli Madonsela ordered President Jacob Zuma to repay a portion of the money.

Jacob Zuma had “unduly benefited” from the building of a swimming pool, amphitheater, cattle enclosure and chicken run, Thuli Madonsela said.

The DA and left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party went to the Constitutional Court to challenge Jacob Zuma’s refusal to pay the money.

The court ruled against Jacob Zuma, and said the law was the “sharp and mighty sword that stands ready to chop the ugly head of impunity from its stiffened neck”.

It also condemned parliament for failing to hold Jacob Zuma accountable, and rejecting the public protector’s findings.

In a TV address to the nation on April 1, Jacob Zuma apologized for the “frustration” caused by the long-running controversy and said he would abide by the ruling.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has announced he is replacing newly appointed Finance Minister David van Rooyen with Pravin Gordhan.

On December 9, Jacob Zuma sacked Nhlanhla Nene in a move that sent the rand to record lows and sparked a sell-off in bank shares.

Nhlanhla Nene’s replacement for less than a week, David van Rooyen, is a little known lawmaker.

The latest move sent the rand up almost 5% on December 13.

A more experienced Pravin Gordhan was widely respected when he served as South Africa’s finance minister from 2009 until 2014.

However, Mohammed Nalla, head of research at Nedbank Capital, said having a finance minister serve just two days did not bode well for South Africa’s reputation.Pravin Gordhan South Africa finance minister

“International investors are probably thinking: why didn’t the president make a much more considered decision in the first place?” he said.

The leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, Mmusi Maimane, said: “This is reckless by President Zuma – he is playing Russian roulette with the South African economy.”

A statement from Jacob Zuma’s office said he had “received many representations” to reconsider his decision to appoint David van Rooyen.

“As a democratic government, we emphasize the importance of listening to the people and to respond to their views,” it added.

Credit agency Fitch downgraded South Africa earlier this month, leaving the country just one notch above “junk” status. It said on December 10 that Nhlanhla Nene’s sacking “raised more negative than positive questions”.

Nhlanhla Nene’s reluctance to approve a plan to build several nuclear power stations at a cost of up to $100 billion is thought to have contributed to his removal as finance minister.

David van Rooyen will take over from Pravin Gordhan as minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs.

Marches to call for Jacob Zuma’s removal as president are being planned for five cities in South Africa on December 16 – a public holiday.

The US Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates on the same day in a move that could put economies in countries like South Africa under further pressure.

Former Health Minister Barbara Hogan on December 11 called on Jacob Zuma to resign. The highest-profile ANC member to oppose Nhlanhla Nene’s removal, she said that the president had crossed a line and needed to be held to account.