South African opposition parties aim at President Jacob Zuma

AP News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2017 12:57 PM
South African opposition parties aim at President Jacob Zuma

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa's two main opposition parties took aim at President Jacob Zuma with one appealing to the highest court to order impeachment proceedings and the other announcing it will launch a vote of no confidence in the president.

The Economic Freedom Fighters party applied to the country's highest court to order parliament to begin impeachment proceedings against Zuma for lying to the legislative body.

Also on Thursday the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said it would launch a vote of no confidence in Zuma in parliament.

At the Constitutional Court, the EFF said it filed its case as "a last resort" after parliament, which is dominated by Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC), had failed in its duty to hold the president accountable, party leader Julius Malema said outside the court in Johannesburg.

"We came here to a lodge a complaint with the Constitutional Court, asking the Constitutional Court to direct parliament to institute disciplinary proceedings against the president of the Republic of South Africa who was found to have breached his oath of office by this highest court," Malema said.

He said that in parliament his party "tried everything within the rules. We followed every little detail to try and get parliament to discipline President Zuma for having breached his oath of office." But he said there had been no parliamentary action against Zuma.

Pressure has been growing on Zuma to step down after he recalled South Africa's finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, 67, from a trade trip in London. Zuma's abrupt order for Gordhan to cut short a long-planned trip prompted widespread speculation that the president intended to fire the finance minister.

Zuma's recall of Gordhan spooked investors and caused South Africa's rand to lose nearly 5 percent of its value against the dollar this week.

A senior member of the South African Communist Party, which is in an alliance with the ANC, said that Zuma told its leaders that he planned to fire Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.

"The president informed us of his intention to effect a Cabinet reshuffle, replacing both minister and deputy of finance," SACP deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said at a press conference in Johannesburg.

Mapaila said that if Zuma fires Gordhan the South African Communist Party's seven Cabinet members would resign from Zuma's Cabinet of 35 ministers.

On Wednesday former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, 67, received a standing ovation from senior dozens of ANC members at the funeral of an anti-apartheid hero after repeating a call for Zuma to step down.

Mothlanthe, who served as South Africa's head of state for nine months in 2008 and 2009, read a letter by Ahmed Kathrada, who died this week at 87, pleading with the scandal-prone Zuma to put the country's interests before his own.

Zuma, 74, did not attend Kathrada's funeral in Johannesburg, saying earlier he would respect the family's request for him not to attend.

"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?" Motlanthe quoted from the letter.