South Africa: Pressure Mounts on Jacob Zuma to Resign
A renowned anti-apartheid activist jailed alongside Nelson Mandela has called on Jacob Zuma to step down, adding pressure on South Africa’s president to quit after a court ruled he acted dishonestly over improper state spending on his private home, the UK Guardian reports.
Echoing similar calls from opposition parties, Ahmed Kathrada said in a letter published on Saturday that Zuma’s resignation would give the country’s government the chance to recover from a crisis of confidence.
“In the face of such persistently widespread criticism, condemnation and demand, is it asking too much to express the hope that you will choose the correct way that is gaining momentum, to consider stepping down?” Kathrada said in the letter, which is dated 31 March.
Mandela and Kathrada were among eight African National Congress (ANC) activists sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted during the 1963-1964 Rivonia trial of trying to overthrow the apartheid government.
South Africa’s top court ruled on Thursday that Zuma had failed to uphold the constitution by ignoring instructions to pay back some of the $16m (£11.2m) in state funds spent on renovations at his sprawling residence at Nkandla.
In a televised address to the nation on Friday evening, 73-year-old Zuma apologised and said he would pay back some of the money as ordered, and that he never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the constitution.
He made no reference to calls for him to resign, led domestically by the Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Maimane, and the Economic Freedom Fighters party led by Julius Malema.
The opposition has also launched impeachment proceedings against Zuma, but they are unlikely to be successful because of the ANC’s strong majority in parliament.
The ANC’s top leadership said it was united behind its leader, though the intervention of 86-year-old Kathrada may carry weight within the party, which has governed the country since apartheid ended in 1994.
The calls for Zuma to quit dominated local newspaper headlines and attracted significant attention abroad.
“It is a shame that the ANC is allowing its moral and political authority to be so grievously eroded by Zuma, instead of bringing his corrupt presidency to an end,” The New York Times wrote in an editorial on Friday.
The scandal is arguably the biggest yet to hit Zuma, who has fended off accusations of corruption, influence peddling and rape since before he took office in 2009.
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