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South Africa’s top court held on Thursday that President Jacob Zuma defied the constitution when he used $15m state funds to renovate his private home and ordered a refund.
The 11 justices of the Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that the President should reimburse some of the sum spent on the renovations, the amount of which will be determined by the national treasury.
According to CNN, the treasury has 60 days to file a report detailing the amount, and Zuma has 45 days after that to pay the money.
The court said Zuma “failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution, as the supreme law of the land” with regard to the upgrading of his homestead in Nkandla, about 300 miles south-east of Johannesburg.
“The constitution, rule of law and accountability are the sharp and mighty sword ready to chop off the ugly head of impunity,” the court added.
The decision seems to settle the controversy that dates back nearly seven years, when Zuma embarked on the renovations soon after he resumed office for his first term.
The renovations to his home included a swimming pool, cattle enclosure, chicken run, visitors centre and amphitheatre. Opposition parties filed two cases, alleging misuse of public funds over the hefty price tag.
After the ruling, a statement from the South African government said Zuma “has noted and respects” the judgment.
“The President will reflect on the judgment and its implications on the state and government, and will in consultation with other impacted institutions of state, determine the appropriate action,” the statement added.
The court also found the country’s National Assembly in violation for its actions regarding the investigation of the President.
“The court thus held that the National Assembly’s resolution, based on the minister’s findings exonerating the President from liability, was inconsistent with the Constitution and unlawful,” the ruling summary said.