December 29, 2017

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s top court will rule on Friday on a bid to compel parliament to hold President Jacob Zuma to account over a scandal related to state-funded upgrades to his private home.

The Economic Freedom Fighters and other small opposition parties brought the constitutional issue to the court.

Its decision could trigger impeachment proceedings against Zuma, who has faced widespread public demands to step down as president of Africa’s most industrialized economy before a general election in 2019.

Zuma, 75, is in a weakened position after Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was narrowly elected leader of Zuma’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) last week, although Zuma’s faction still retains key positions in the party and he has already survived no-confidence votes.

South Africa’s rand edged firmer early on Friday ahead of the decision, which was expected to be handed down at 0800 GMT. It has gained close to 10 percent against the dollar since Ramaphosa’s election.

In March 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma pay back some of the roughly $15 million in state money spent upgrading his private home.

The unanimous ruling by the 11-judge court said Zuma had failed to “uphold, defend and respect” the constitution by ignoring the findings of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, whose office is an anti-graft watchdog with a strong constitutional mandate.

Zuma has since repaid 7.8 million rand ($631,000) – the sum determined by the Treasury as the “reasonable cost” he should bear – while also surviving a no-confidence motion in parliament where members of own his party voted to oust him.

But opposition parties have argued that parliament has not done enough, given the gravity of the court’s findings.

Zuma has denied wrongdoing over many of the corruption allegations that have swirled around his presidency. Last week he sought leave to appeal a court ruling ordering him to set up a judicial inquiry into influence-peddling in his government.

(Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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