Who runs South Africa’s institutions? How strong is our democracy? Is this what we fought for? Such questions have been whizzing around the country over the past five years as concerns multiplied both about corruption charges against President Zuma and his business friends, and the use of the state security machinery to stymie political opponents. After the furore of the $5bn arms deal in 1999, a key test for the country’s institutions was the seemingly mundane matter of whether Zuma had the right to spend $20m of state funds on improvements to his homestead in Nkandla. The saga touched on key institutional themes: accountability of state power, judicial independence and the abuse of power by the security services. After investigative journalists Stefaans Brümmer and Sam Sole broke the Nkandla story, the then public protector Thuli Madonsela examined the case at length, concluding that Zuma should repay the state funds used. Zuma demurred and launched his own investigation. Meanwhile, the security services started investigating a claim that Madonsela had links with US intelligence. This counter strategy failed. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng delivered an historic and scathing judgement against Zuma in March 2016. “The President failed to uphold‚ defend and respect the constitution as the supreme law of the land,” he wrote. Mogoeng and a full bench of the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma had breached the constitution by failing to comply with Madonsela’s recommendations, and issued a remedial order to repay the state funds. In a humiliating U-turn, Zuma offered a qualified apology and promised to repay the funds. A few months later, Pretoria’s High Court overturned the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)’S 2009 decision to drop 783 corruption charges against Zuma and reinstated the charges. Then it denied the NPA leave to appeal. It was the dropping of those 783 charges that allowed Zuma to stand as ANC president in 2009.