South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has made a U-turn in court over his refusal to repay some of the $23m (£15m) of state money used to upgrade his home.

His lawyer admitted he was wrong to ignore an anti-corruption watchdog’s report to pay back money spent on features such as a swimming pool.

The opposition brought the case, hoping it will open the way for impeachment proceedings against the president.

Thousands of people protested outside court, shouting “Zuma must fall”.

Police put up a strong show of force, as the protesters, led by Julius Malema’s left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), marched to the court in the main city, Johannesburg.

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EFF leader Julius Malema (R) led protesters outside the court

The protest was against “corruption and cronyism” in government, the EFF said.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) also organized its own demonstration.

The governing African National Congress (ANC) denounced the marches as a “political exercise”.

The opposition parties want the Constitutional Court to rule that Mr Zuma flouted the constitution by ignoring a 2014 report by the anti-corruption watchdog, known as the Public Protector, that he should repay the money, as he had “unduly benefited” from the upgrade.

At the time, the police minister defended the expenditure as necessary security upgrades, saying the swimming pool was, in fact, a fire pool that could be used in the event a fire broke out at the residence in Mr Zuma’s home village of Nkandla.

An amphitheatre, cattle enclosure and chicken run were also built.

Mr Zuma’s lawyer Jeremy Gauntlett conceded in court that the report was “binding” on the president, and he was prepared to repay the money within 90 days.

However, he denied that Mr Zuma had violated the constitution.

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