South Africa’s top court to rule on Zuma impeachment motion Friday

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma gestures during a media briefing with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (not pictured) at the Union Building in Pretoria November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: POLITICS)

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s top court will rule on Friday on a bid to compel parliament to launch impeachment proceedings against President Jacob Zuma over a scandal related to state-funded upgrades to his private home, opposition parties and media said on Thursday.

Zuma has faced widespread public demands to step down as president of Africa’s most industrialised economy before a general election in 2019 and the such proceedings could increase pressure on him to quit.

Zuma, 75, is in a weakened position after Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was narrowly elected leader of Zuma’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) last week, although Zuma’s faction still retains key positions in the party and he has already survived no-confidence votes.

The Constitutional Court reserved judgment on any impeachment in September after opposition parties submitted an application in the wake of a ruling that Zuma failed to uphold the constitution by not abiding by a watchdog’s finding that he repay some of the public money spent on his sprawling rural home.

South African news channel eNCA and the EWN news network reported on Thursday that the Constitutional Court would issue its ruling on Friday.

The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party said on its Twitter account that it had been informed by the court that a judgment would be made on Friday.

An official at the court, who was not authorised to speak to the media, said the court was expected to make a ruling at 0800 GMT on Friday.

In March 2016, the court ruled that Zuma pay back some of the roughly $15 million in state money spent upgrading his private home.

The unanimous ruling by the 11-judge Constitutional Court, a central pillar of the democracy established at the end of apartheid, also said Zuma had failed to “uphold, defend and respect” the constitution by ignoring the findings of the watchdog led by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

Zuma has since repaid 7.8 million rand ($631,000) – the sum determined by the Treasury as the “reasonable cost” he should bear – while also surviving a no-confidence motion in parliament where members of own his party voted to oust him.

Zuma has denied wrongdoing over many of the corruption allegations that have swirled around his presidency. Last week Zuma sought leave to appeal a court ruling ordering him to set up a judicial inquiry into influence-peddling in his government.