31. March 2016

Concourt: Zuma failed to uphold the Constitution

The Public Protector’s remedial action against President Jacob Zuma over the upgrades to his Nkandla home were binding, the Constitutional Court said on Thursday.  The Constitutional Court found against Zuma, ruling that he breached the constitution when he failed to heed Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on non security improvements to his private residence, and should reimburse the state an amount to be determined by National Treasury.
In a unanimous judgment read out by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, the court instructed treasury to determine an amount to be paid by Zuma within 60 days for luxuries added to his home in rural Nkandla.
If compliance with the public protector’s remedial action were optional, then very few would allow it to have any effect. “And if by design it never had a binding effect then [it would be] incomprehensible how the Public Protector could be effective,” Mogoeng said.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had found that upgrades which were done on President Jacob Zuma’s homestead were not all security upgrades, as stated. She found that Zuma had unduly benefited from some of the upgrades which included the building of an amphitheatre, a cattle kraal, a chicken run and swimming pool, among other things. As a course of remedial action, she recommended that he pay back a portion of the funds used for the upgrades.  Madonsela’s report however, was set aside by the National Assembly after Zuma made submissions on why he should not pay back the funds. An ad hoc comittee led by the Minister of Police also backed Zuma’s report and exonerated him from upholding the report.   The Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters were among the parties that took the matter to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the Public Protectors’ report cannot be ignored.
Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma has “noted and respects” the judgement handed down by the Constitutional Court and its findings relating to the Public Protector’s report on his Nkandla homestead, government said on Thursday. The president thereafter has 45 days to personally pay the determined amount.
A terse statement released by the acting Cabinet spokeswoman, Phumla Williams, said: “The President appreciates and reaffirms the powers of the Constitutional Court as a final arbiter on matters of the Constitution in the Republic of South Africa.”  Williams said the president would reflect on the judgement and its implications on the state and government, and would “in consultation with other impacted institutions of state determine the appropriate action”.
She said the president and South African government “remain confident that our constitutional democracy remains strong and intact and affirms the Chapter 9 institutions established to strengthen and support the country’s democracy”. (Mail&Guardian, Johannesburg)

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