South Africa's Zuma - accused of destroying Nelson Mandela's legacy - survives no-confidence vote

CAPE TOWN (AFP) - South African President Jacob Zuma survived a vote of no confidence in parliament Tuesday after being reviled by opposition parties as a thief who was destroying Nelson Mandela's legacy.

In a rambunctious session the parliamentary leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, Mmusi Maimane, was forced to withdraw his description of Zuma as a "thief" after it was ruled to be unparliamentary language.

But Maimane returned to the attack, later describing Zuma as a man who "stole the people's money" to spend US$24 million (S$33 million) on "security upgrades" to his private rural residence.

He compared Zuma unfavourably with the late Mandela, the liberation hero who became first president of a democratic South Africa in 1994.

"(Mandela) gave us a glimpse of what a non-racial and united South Africa would look like. He was a selfless leader who embodied the democratic dream.

"In the six years President Zuma has presided, the dream of Mandela has been all but destroyed," Maimane said.

He accused Zuma of emasculating state institutions as he attempts to evade the reinstatement of "783 counts of fraud, corruption and racketeering" which were dropped shortly before he became president in 2009.

"Here's a president who is willing to break every rule to stay out of jail," Maimane said.

Speakers from several other opposition parties made similar accusations, listing a series of scandals the president has been involved in.

South Africa's dismal economic performance was also laid at Zuma's door, with growth last year of just 1.5 per cent and unemployment at around 25 per cent.

But when it came to a vote the ruling African National Congress' overwhelming majority in parliament ensured that the motion of no confidence was rejected by 221 votes to 113.

Zuma, who was not in parliament for the debate, was elected for a second five-year term in 2014.