South Africa’s governing African National Congress handily defeated an opposition effort to impeach President Jacob G. Zumaon Tuesday, five days after the nation’s highest court ruled that he had violated the Constitution in his handling of a long-running corruption case.
Lawmakers from the party rallied behind Mr. Zuma, who maintained that he had acted illegally only because of bad legal advice.
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, put forward the impeachment motion with an eye toward important local elections later this year. Opposition lawmakers said the A.N.C., the party of Nelson Mandela, had become a corrupt organization interested only in self-preservation.
“Today it will be recorded that A.N.C. members of this Parliament chose to defend a crooked, broken president instead of the Constitution and the rule of law,” said Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the Democratic Alliance. “Today will signal once and for all that the A.N.C. has lost its way, and that there is no way back.”
The Constitutional Court ruled last Thursday that Mr. Zuma had acted against the Constitution by ignoring a 2014 order by the Office of the Public Protector, a national watchdog agency. The office had directed Mr. Zuma to reimburse the state for millions of dollars in nonsecurity-related improvements to his private home in Nkandla, in southeastern South Africa.
For years, Mr. Zuma dismissed calls by critics to pay for the work himself. His party attacked the public protector, and party lawmakers issued a report exonerating the president.
The court’s ruling left open the possibility that Mr. Zuma might have been “following wrong legal advice and therefore acting in good faith” when he failed to comply with the public protector’s order.
Mr. Zuma seized on that part of the ruling in a televised address the day after the court acted. He apologized for causing “a lot of frustration and confusion,” but defended his actions and said the violation “happened because of a different approach and different legal advice.”
The ruling party stuck to that line on Tuesday in the impeachment debate in the Assembly, where Mr. Zuma was not present.
“The president acted in good faith in the justified belief that he was entitled to do so, in terms of the Constitution,” said the deputy justice minister, John Jeffery.
In recent days, as opposition parties and a few high-ranking A.N.C. members called for Mr. Zuma to resign, the ruling party’s top leaders and power brokers from its rural strongholds closed ranks behind him.
The impeachment motion required a two-thirds majority vote to pass, but the ruling party has a comfortable majority in the Assembly, with 249 of the 400 seats. The vote on the impeachment motion was 143 in favor and 233 against.
Mr. Maimane, the Democratic Alliance leader, conceded before the vote was taken that the motion would fail, but he said he hoped that voters would remember the conduct of Mr. Zuma and his party when they cast ballots in municipal elections later this year.
Julius Malema, the leader of the second-largest opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, urged A.N.C. members to turn against Mr. Zuma.
“Stop thinking for your stomach,” Mr. Malema said. “Vote with your brains.”
New York Times.