In a dramatic turn of events, President Jacob Zuma last night announced that he would pay back a portion of the money spent on the upgrades made to his personal residence, Nkandla.
However, opposition parties remain sceptical. In a media briefing the Democratic Alliance (DA) pointed out that Zuma has previously stood up and stated in Parliament that he will not be paying anything towards to upgrades made at Nkandla.
“The DA notes the statement released late last night by the Presidency stating that the President would “implement what the Public Protector recommended as remedial action contained in the report” following the upgrades made at his private residence at Nkandla. This wording is carefully non-specific, and the DA will not enter into any settlement that would effectively undermine the remedial action expressly prescribed by the Public Protector in her report entitled Secure in Comfort,” said the party.
Despite Zuma saying that he will pay back a portion of the money, the DA added that it would be continuing with its legal action against Zuma. “The DA after taking legal advice, has decided to proceed with presenting our Heads of Argument before the Constitutional Court scheduled for Tuesday, 9 February 2016.”
According to the DA, it will argue that the president’s failure to “engage rationally with the Public Protector’s findings and remedial action pertaining to him was manifestly irrational, illegal and unconstitutional.”
The Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP) have noted that this move by the president is a sign that his legal advisors have accepted the situation, while also acting as a ‘smoke screen’ ahead of the State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Narend Singh, IFP Chief Whip in parliament, said:“The president we believe should be given his day in court, this is something we have been asking for, there has been contestation over the public protector’s pronouncement of remedial action, and we believe that if nothing else the constitutional court will clear that up once and for all.”
While the IFP have not personally taken court action against the president, it has noted its support for the action taken by other political parties. “Additional taxpayer monies have been wasted on this scandal as parliamentary committees have had to sit for weeks on end as well as perform time-consuming in loco site inspection at the Nkandla home of the president,” said the IFP.
The courts will decide
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have also taken the matter to the Constitutional Court. However, the DA clarified that its court case is separate to that of the EFF. The DA has taken a range of legal steps to bring this matter before the constitutional court, taking the case through the various levels of the legal system.
“The Constitutional Court will, on Tuesday, consider this matter in order to provide legal certainty about the Public Protector’s powers. The law has been developed in some degree in the Schippers judgement, confirmed by the SCA and that the Constitutional Court will rule definitively on the matter,” added the DA.
“I think it’s about time that the ANC realises that in a court of law it is not their majority that will matter, but rather the fact of the law that will matter, and we will be happy to accept whatever ruling the constitutional court hands down on this matter particularly as regards the remedial action and the powers of the public protector,” added Singh.
The IFP also wished to clarify that during the establishment of the ad hoc Committee on Nkandla, it put forward the suggestion that the Constitutional Court be approached in order to determine the powers of the Public Protector to prescribe remedial action and the enforceability of it. However, this was dismissed by the majority party (ANC) at the time.
President Zuma’s decision
In a statement released by the presidency, it noted: “President Jacob Zuma has proposed an end to the drawn-out legal controversy regarding the Public Protector’s March 2014 report on Nkandla, ‘Secure in Comfort’. While President Zuma remains critical of a number of factual aspects and legal conclusions in the report, he proposes a simple course to implement what the Public Protector recommended as remedial action contained in the report.”
The presidency added: “President Zuma has maintained his willingness to contribute to any increase in value to his property, objectively determined, as required by the Public Protector. He notes that the Public Protector accepts that only five aspects of the project give rise to a need for any determination – and that this determination still requires the proportion of the item and the reasonable cost to be established. The President also supports the need for finality in the matter of the Public Protector’s report. However, he believes and contends in his affidavits filed in court that the DA and the EFF have misinterpreted and/or are manipulating the Public Protector’s report for the purposes of political expediency.
“To achieve an end to the drawn-out dispute in a manner that meets the Public Protector’s recommendations and is beyond political reproach, the President proposes that the determination of the amount he is to pay should be independently and impartially determined. Given the objection by one of the parties to the involvement of SAPS, as the Public Protector herself had required, the Auditor-General and Minister of Finance be requested by the court, through appropriate designees, to conduct the exercise directed by the Public Protector.”
“None of the EFF, the DA and the Public Protector have responded to the President’s proposal, which was made in his answering affidavit in November last year. It will now be for the court to decide if the offer is an appropriate basis for an order when the applications are argued on 9 February 2016,” said the presidency.
The DA added that the decision for President Zuma to come out with the announcement that he will pay back the money is an attempt to take the spotlight off of the appointment of Prince Mokotedi has the head of the Hawks in Gauteng. He was former head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)’s Integrity Unit.