DA goes to court over Nkandla

The Democratic Alliance filed papers in the Cape Town high court on Wednesday that challenge the validity of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s report and contend that President Jacob Zuma cannot simply ignore the public protector’s report on Nkandla. 

While Thuli Madonsela found that the president and his family had benefited unduly from the upgrades to his homestead and had to pay back a portion of the money spent on non-security features, Nhleko’s report absolved the president of any wrongdoing.

The party says that by appointing Nhleko to determine if he had to pay back a portion of the money for the Nkandla upgrades, the president was substituting the remedial actions in the public protector’s report with his own.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane threatened to take the matter to court after a report by the Nkandla ad hoc committee, also clearing the president, was adopted in Parliament on Tuesday.

Opposition parties lost a bid to have a report by the ad hoc committee thrown out and replaced with a minority report, and failed to convince the ruling party to vote against the report.

Maimane said they had exhausted all options available to them before approaching the courts.

“President Jacob Zuma’s failure to rationally engage with the public protector’s findings and comply with the remedial action in her report [must] be declared manifestly irrational and set aside on the grounds it is unconstitutional and invalid as a matter of law,” he said.

“It is both unethical and unlawful for the president to designate the minister of police – who owes his job to the president – as the appropriate body to come to a determination on whether he owes any money for the upgrades to his private home. To this end, we will also submit that Minister Nhleko’s report be declared unlawful and invalid, by its very existence.”

Maimane said filing the papers marked the next step in their fight to see that the remedial actions taken against the president by the public protector are upheld and enforced, “and that he repay a portion of the costs of the undue benefit he received from the upgrades to his private residence at Nkandla”.

The respondents in the case are Zuma, House speaker Baleka Mbete, Nhleko and the public protector.

In their court papers on the power of Madonsela’s office and the enforceability of her findings, the party says the public protector is empowered to protect the public from malfeasance in public office by investigating complaints of state misconduct and providing remedies for it.

“To achieve this purpose, the public protector must have the power to determine the remedy and order its implementation.”

The party says that even if the public protector’s remedial actions are not binding, the president cannot simply ignore them.

Maimane said the party would not allow Zuma to get off the hook on paying back a portion of the money.

The office of the ANC chief whip in Parliament said the DA had a right to go to court.

“We know too well that courts and police stations have now become fashionable places for media theatrics, where opposition parties attract a certain degree of media attention on the doorsteps of the courts and police stations than they would in their offices. 

“Far from being concerned with media stunts of the opposition, our focus as the majority party in this institution is now on ensuring that important recommendations passed by Parliament yesterday are implemented by the executive,” said spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.

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