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South Africa president ordered to repay use of public money for private purposes

[JURIST] The South Africa Constitutional Court [official website] on Thursday ordered [text, PDF] President Jacob Zuma [official website] to personally repay the amounts determined by the National Treasury, as they relate to the "non-security" upgrades to his private residence. The issue came to light when several South Africans, including a Member of Parliament, complained to the Public Protector "concerning aspects of the security upgrades" made to the private residence triggering a fairly extensive investigation by the Protector into the Nkandla project. After such investigation, the Protector concluded that several of the improvements were non-security in nature. The Protector stated that since the government is "under an obligation only to provide security for the President at his private residence, any installation that has nothing to do with the President's security amounts to undue benefit or unlawful enrichment to him and his family and must therefore be paid for by him." Recognizing that the remedial action taken by the Protector against the president as binding and citing the President's failure to comply with the remedial action taken against him by the Protector as a constitutional violation, the court ordered the Treasury to estimate the cost of the unauthorized upgrades for which the president will be held personally responsible. The court stated that, "[t]he National Treasury must report back to this Court on the outcome of its determination within 60 days of the date of this order" and that "The President must personally pay the amount determined by the National Treasury ... within 45 days of this Court's signification of its approval of the report." The court also ordered the president to reprimand the ministers involved in the unauthorized upgrades, and stated that "The resolution passed by the National Assembly absolving the President from compliance" is constitutionally invalid and set aside. The Court also added that the "President, the Minister of Police and the National Assembly must pay costs of the applications including the costs of two counsel."

This is not the first time that Zuma has faced controversy in South Africa politics. Zuma was ousted [JURIST report] as the country's deputy president in 2005 after an aide was convicted of corruption. He was also charged with rape, but he was ultimately acquitted and reinstated [JURIST report] as African National Congress deputy vice president. In July 2008 the South African Constitutional Court rejected a motion [JURIST report] by Zuma to exclude evidence from the corruption trial. Zuma had argued [JURIST report] that evidence seized in 2005 raids by the Directorate of Special Investigations should be thrown out because the raids violated his rights to privacy and a fair trial. The court upheld the warrants used in the raids, confirming a November 2007 decision [JURIST report] by the Supreme Court of Appeal. He was first charged with corruption in 2005, but those charges were later dismissed [JURIST report] because prosecutors failed to follow proper procedures.

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