South African President Jacob Zuma faces an impeachment attempt in Parliament after the country’s top court ruled that he had violated the constitution over spending on his private residence.
Zuma will almost certainly survive the impeachment vote, which requires a two-thirds majority, as his ruling African National Congress holds an overwhelming number of seats.
Despite rumblings of discontent within the party over a series of scandals involving the president, there is unlikely to be a revolt among ANC lawmakers, particularly as it will not be a secret ballot.
The Supreme Court of Appeal ruled last Thursday that Zuma had flouted the constitution by failing to repay some of the money spent on “security upgrades” at his rural home at Nkandla in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
The project, which cost taxpayers $24 million, included a swimming pool, chicken run, cattle enclosure and an amphitheatre.
A 2014 report by the government-appointed Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, found that Zuma and his family had “unduly benefited” from the upgrades and ordered him to pay back some of the money.
Zuma apologised in a national television address on Friday for the “frustration and confusion” caused by the affair, but made it clear that he had no intention of responding to calls to resign.
He however said he would pay back some of the money as ordered.
The impeachment motion was lodged by the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, which drew unflattering comparisons between Zuma and iconic former ANC leader and president, Nelson Mandela.
“Jacob Zuma is the cancer at the heart of South African politics; he is not capable of honourable conduct, and cannot continue to be president of our country,” the party said in response to his televised address.
It is unlikely that Zuma will be in parliament for the debate, which means that it might escape the chaotic scenes which have regularly erupted when he is present.
Previous disruptions have been sparked by the radical Economic Freedom Fighters, led by firebrand Julius Malema, who vowed after the appeal court judgement that they will no longer allow Zuma to address the assembly.
“In between now and the impeachment, the president will not speak in parliament and we will stop him physically.
“We will push him because President Zuma is no longer the president of the Republic of South Africa,” Malema told a news conference.
Zuma has been urged to resign by a number of senior ANC veterans of the struggle against apartheid, which brought Mandela to power in 1994, but analysts say that too many current office-holders fear that if the president falls they will fall with him.
Zuma, 73, will complete his second term in office in 2019, and is barred by the constitution from running again.