S.Africa’s under fire Zuma to address nation

Embattled South African President Jacob
Zuma addresses the nation Thursday against
a background of concerted efforts in the
courts, parliament and on the streets to throw
him out of office.
A scandal over public money spent on his
private residence and damage done to the
economy when he fired two finance ministers
within days are the major factors fuelling the
“Zuma must fall” protests.
Zuma’s annual state of the nation address in
parliament comes just two days after the
Constitutional Court heard a crucial case
accusing him of violating his oath to uphold
the constitution.
Two opposition parties took the case to court
over Zuma’s initial refusal to obey a ruling by
the national ombudswoman that he repay
some of the $24 million lavished on his
private home at Nkandla.
His own lawyers accepted in court that the
case had “traumatised the nation,” and
conceded that he needed to obey.
But they urged the court not to be “inveigled
into a position of making some form of wide,
condemnatory order, which will be used
effectively for… an impeachment in
parliament”.
The court reserved judgement.
Radical opposition party the Economic
Freedom Fighters (EFF) pledged after the
hearing that they would indeed use an adverse
ruling by the court to press for Zuma’s
impeachment.
Any such attempt would likely fail in a
parliament, where Zuma’s African National
Congress (ANC) holds an overwhelming
majority.
– ‘Delicate time’ –
But critics hope the groundswell of discontent,
expected to result in losses for the ANC in
municipal elections later this year, could lead
the party itself to oust Zuma as president.
The EFF has also vowed to disrupt Zuma’s
address in parliament if he fails to explain his
sacking of the finance ministers in December,
which sent South Africa’s rand currency into
free fall and hammered the stock market.
Similar tactics used by the EFF last year saw
parliament degenerate into chaos and led to
lawmakers being violently evicted.
Special precautions are in place this year in
an attempt to avoid a repeat performance at
this evening’s speech, due at 7:00 pm (1700
GMT).
Security around parliament is expected to be
particularly tight, with several groups planning
anti-Zuma demonstrations on the streets in
major cities, including Cape Town.
The heightened tension comes amid social
unrest over a sharply slowing economy, high
unemployment, grinding poverty and a
resurgence of public racial animosity.
Commentators have predicted that 2016 could
be South Africa’s toughest year since the ANC
came to power under Nelson Mandela at the
end of apartheid in 1994.
Even Zuma’s lawyer Jeremy Gauntlett told the
Constitutional Court this week: “This is a
delicate time in a dangerous year.”
Vanguard News

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