The board of trustees of former South African President Nelson Mandela’s charitable foundation is seeking an urgent meeting with the governing African National Congress after the country’s highest court found President Jacob Zuma violated the country’s constitution.
Calls for Zuma, 73, to step down by ANC veterans, church and civil-society organizations and business leaders have intensified since the Constitutional Court ruled on March 31 that the president “failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution.”
Board members want to discuss the “groundswell of public discontent in the wake of the Constitutional Court’s recent ruling,” the Johannesburg-based foundation said in an e-mailed statement on Saturday. “The board welcomed the ruling. Democracy’s lifeblood is institutions promoting social justice without fear or favor, across the entire social, public sphere. Protecting this lifeblood is at the heart of Nelson Mandela’s legacy.”
Opposition to Zuma has spread since December when he fired his respected finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, sparking a selloff of the rand and the nation’s bonds. The Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma violated the constitution for failing to repay taxpayers’ money spent on his private home, a scandal that has further dented confidence in an administration that’s struggling to revive a stagnating economy and cut a 25 percent unemployment rate.
While Zuma said he acted in good faith and the ANC’s top leaders and lawmakers rallied behind him to defeat an impeachment motion in parliament, hundreds of party members are refusing to tow the line and are demanding that he resign or be fired. Those who have called on him to resign include former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel; Dennis Goldberg, who stood trial with Mandela; Ben Turok, who once headed the ANC’s ethics committee, and Cheryl Carolus, the ANC’s ex-deputy secretary-general who has served as South Africa’s high commissioner to London.
The foundation’s board said it was also of the view that South Africa has deep-rooted systemic problems that need to receive sustained public attention.
“Our country’s crisis of leadership is not restricted to the summits of power,” the foundation said. “We need good, accountable leadership.”