Mandela Foundation rebukes Zuma, joins calls for leadership change

President Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Reuters)

Johannesburg: The foundation set up to guard the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela on Tuesday blamed South Africa's President Jacob Zuma for the "wheels coming off" Africa's most industrialised nation and urged a change in political leadership.

Since coming to power in 2009, Zuma has survived a string of corruption scandals almost unscathed. But South Africa has had to bear the cost of his antics as investors worry about its political stability, business climate and rule of law.

In a rare statement, the non-profit Nelson Mandela Foundation, whose board is made up of ten prominent South African academics, politicians and journalists, called on Zuma's African National Congress (ANC) to change its leadership.

"We call on the governing party to take the steps necessary to ensure that the vehicle of state be protected and placed in safe and capable hands," it said, under a title that read: "Time to account for crippling the state".

Zuma's spokesman did not answer a phone call seeking comment.

The 74-year-old is facing calls to quit from several ANC members since municipal elections in August, in which it suffered its worst losses since it took power when apartheid fell in 1994. The ANC's top echelons have backed the president.

Opposition parties and civic groups are planning to march in the capital Pretoria on Wednesday to demand, among other things, that he resign.

But Zuma has shown no signs of stepping down before his second and final term as president is up in 2019, despite being rocked by corruption scandals that saw him suffer both financial and political damage.

In March, the Constitutional Court ordered him to repay some of the $16 million spent on enhancing his Nkandla home in rural KwaZulu-Natal province. But Zuma weathered a motion of no-confidence in parliament over the scandal and has since paid back more than $500,000.

The Mandela Foundation said the court ruling over Nkandla was an example of how Zuma had failed to uphold the constitution. "It is increasingly a national consensus that he has failed the test," it said.

Zuma is also entangled in an ongoing case around the alleged political influence of a trio of wealthy brothers. He also faced accusations of meddling after fraud charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan were dropped on Monday in a sudden U-turn.

Near record unemployment and a stagnant economy have exacerbated discontent with Zuma's leadership. His government has also failed to end weeks of often violent student demonstrations over the cost of university education.

The Mandela Foundation said it had seen a weakening of law enforcement bodies under Zuma and supported "the demand to hold to account those responsible for compromising our democratic state and looting its resources."