South Africa

South Africa

Con Court Nkandla decision: Zuma fights on

Con Court Nkandla decision: Zuma fights on

Pressure increased on President Jacob Zuma from within and outside the ANC to step down following Thursday’s Constitutional Court judgement that he had failed to uphold the Constitution in the Nkandla matter. By MARIANNE MERTEN.

The ANC top six officials met Friday and then the presidency announced Zuma would address the nation on the court judgement, which had found he failed to respect and uphold the Constitution.

When Zuma stepped to the podium it was to say he welcomed the judgement, saying: “I never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the Republic”.

Emphasising his initial failure to implement the remedial action had been based on a different approach which, “while correct in law at the time, the approach was subsequently demonstrated to be contrary to the Constitution”, Zuma reiterated he had not knowingly acted against the Constitution.

“I would like to emphasise that it was never my intention not to comply with the remedial action take by the public protector or to disrespect her office,” he said. “I never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the Republic.”

“I respect the judgement and will abide by it. I have consistently stated that I will pay an amount towards the Nkandla non-security upgrades once this had been determined by the correct authority. The court has ruled on the matter and has devised a mechanism for such a determination by the National Treasury.”

On Thursday the Constitutional Court in a scathing judgement, which found Zuma had failed to uphold and respect the Constitution ordered National Treasury to determine the cost of the non-security upgrades at Nkandla within 60 days. Once vetted by the court, Zuma would have 45 days to pay up. The court said the public protector’s remedial actions are binding and can only be reviewed by a court of law.

The Constitutional Court judgement had underscored “the values that underpin our hard won freedom and democracy such as the rule of law and the accountability of public office bearers, while also respecting the rights of public office bearers facing scrutiny”.

The “ground-breaking judgement” had clarified strengthened South Africa’s Constitution and clarified the powers of the public protector, which may only be reviewed by a court. Zuma welcomed the clarity “that I should have taken the matter on review by a court of law in event of any queries”.

“This interpretation would be followed by the executive in the future in light of this judgement. It puts an end to any other interpretation of this matter.”

The Nkandla project brought sharp focus on “unacceptable” gross inflation of costs and government was acting to stop the possibility of this happening again by, for example, the office of the chief procurement officer.

“The judgement has been very helpful. There are lessons to be learnt for all of us in government,” Zuma said. DM

Photo: South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma stand before the State of the Nation address at the opening session of Parliament in Cape Town, February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings,

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