A debate over a motion to impeach South African President Jacob Zuma has been delayed on Tuesday after opposition politicians demanded that the Speaker of parliament recuse herself from presiding over the proceedings.
Opposition lawmakers said Speaker Baleka Mbete was also a respondent in a case in which the Constitutional Court ruled last week that Zuma breached the law by ignoring an order to repay some of the $16m in state funds spent on renovating his private home.
Mbete said the constitution did not require her to recuse herself from presiding over the debate, and suspended proceedings to consult with parliamentary officials.
The impeachment vote, which is expected on Tuesday, requires a two-thirds majority, as his ruling African National Congress holds an overwhelming number of seats.
Despite rumblings of discontent within the party over a series of scandals involving the president, there is unlikely to be a revolt among ANC lawmakers, particularly as it will not be a secret ballot.
The court ruled last Thursday that Zuma had flouted the constitution by failing to repay some of the money spent on “security upgrades” at his rural home at Nkandla in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
On Thursday, Thuli Madonsela, the Public Protector of South Africa, said early estimates indicated Zuma might have to repay the government at least $680,000.
The project, which cost taxpayers $24m, included a swimming pool, a chicken run, a cattle enclosure and an amphitheatre.
The uncompromising nature of the verdict – chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng described it as a “profound lesson” for South Africa’s young democracy – piles more pressure on Zuma, already feeling the heat from a string of scandals.
Zuma, a 73-year-old Zulu traditionalist, has been under fire since December, when his abrupt sacking of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene sent the rand into a tailspin.