JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma denied acting dishonestly during a long-running scandal over improper state spending at his private Nkandla home, the day after a scathing constitutional court ruling on the saga.
In a Friday evening address to the nation, Zuma said his response to a report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, a constitutionally mandated watchdog, ordering him to repay some of the money was “in good faith” but based on unsound legal advice.
“I wish to emphasise that I never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the constitution,” Zuma said.
“Any action that has been found not to be in keeping with the constitution happened because of a different approach and different legal advice,” he said, before issuing an apology for the “frustration and confusion” caused by the scandal.
Opposition parties, who have been calling for the 73-year-old to resign, dismissed his pronouncements as misleading.
Leaders of his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party are also due to hold a news conference shortly.
The opposition has launched impeachment proceedings against Zuma but these are unlikely to be successful because of the ANC’s strong majority in parliament.
However, some South Africans believe the scandal could still bring down the 73-year-old leader by persuading some in the ANC to abandon him.
The rand, which has been pummelled since December by a string of Zuma-related scandals, was 1 percent stronger against the dollar as he started to speak but pulled back slightly as market speculation he might resign diminished.
Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Ed Stoddard