Court orders DA to retract Nkandla SMS

The Democratic Alliance’s SMS stating that President Jacob Zuma stole public money to build his Nkandla home was based on false information, the Electoral Court held on Tuesday.

The ANC had appealed against an earlier court ruling that the DA SMS was fair comment. The Electoral Court declared the DA SMS amounted to a publication of false information in contravention of the Electoral Commission Act and the Electoral Code of Conduct. 

On April 4, acting Judge Mike Hellens dismissed the ANC’s application to stop the distribution of the SMS, saying it was fair comment. In the SMS, sent to over 1.5-million voters in Gauteng, the DA said: “The Nkandla report shows how Zuma stole your money to build his R246m home.” The SMS followed findings by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela that Zuma and his family unduly benefited from R246-million in security upgrades to his KwaZulu-Natal residence. 

The Electoral Court found to justify the publication of the SMS message, the DA had relied on the “licence to loot” phrase in the Public Protector’s report. “Reliance on this phrase is completely misplaced because it ignores the context in which it was used and the fact that President Zuma is not implicated in the ‘licence to loot’ situation,” the judgment reads. “In fact, rather than attributing the excessive costs of the Nkandla project to President Zuma, the report focuses on systematic failures.” 

The judgment directed the DA to retract the SMS by sending out another SMS through a bulk short message service to all earlier recipients of the first SMS. The court held the SMS should state: “The DA retracts the SMS dispatched to you which falsely stated that President Zuma stole R246m to build his home. The SMS violated the Code and the Act.”

The DA has indicated that it would seek leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court. – Sapa

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