Cape Town (AFP) – South Africa’s radical leftist opposition Economic Freedom Fighters on Thursday took legal action to force President Jacob Zuma to repay taxpayers’ money spent on renovating his residence.
The party’s firebrand leader Julius Malema said the EFF had filed court papers after failing to get an answer Zuma on when he would refund some of the $24 million (22 million euros) spent on renovating his rural homestead in Nkandla village.
“It is very clear we will never get an answer, Mr President. Let’s meet in court,” said Malema after repeatedly pressing Zuma over the scandal during presidential question time.
Outside parliament, Malema accused Zuma of being “arrogant” and having “total disregard” for state institutions.
“Only a court of law can compel him” to repay the money, he told reporters.
“We are taking him to the Constitutional Court.”
He said his party had lodged the application earlier on Thursday and that both Zuma and parliament had been served with court papers.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, the country’s ombudswoman, had ruled in March last year that Zuma and his family had “benefited unduly” from the work on his home.
She recommended that Zuma pay back some of the money spent on the renovations which included a swimming pool, an amphitheatre and a cattle enclosure.
The lavish spending has angered many in a country where poverty remains widespread 21 years after apartheid officially ended.
Anger over the Nkandla affair has repeatedly thrown parliament into chaos, with members of Malema’s EFF disrupting sessions with chants of “Pay back the money.”
Zuma has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
On Thursday he told parliament that Malema’s question was “premature” since parliament was still discussing the ombudsman’s recommendation.
“I will respond further to the debate around this matter once all processes have been concluded,” said Zuma.