Key comments from the Concourt’s Nkandla ruling

On President Jacob Zuma

“He is the first citizen of this country and occupies a position indispensable for the effective governance of our democratic country. Only upon him has the constitutional obligation to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic been expressly imposed.” 

“Unsurprisingly, the nation pins its hopes on him to steer the country in the right direction and accelerate our journey towards a peaceful, just and prosperous destination, that all other progress-driven nations strive towards on a daily basis. He is a constitutional being by design, a national pathfinder, the quintessential commander-in-chief of State affairs and the personification of this nation’s constitutional project.”

“The President thus failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. This failure is manifest from the substantial disregard for the remedial action taken against him by the Public Protector in terms of her constitutional powers.”

On the National Assembly and Parliament
“Similarly, the National Assembly, and by extension Parliament, is the embodiment of the centuries-old dreams and legitimate aspirations of all our people […] In sum, Parliament is the mouthpiece, the eyes and the service-delivery-ensuring machinery of the people. No doubt, it is an irreplaceable feature of good governance in South Africa.”


“That said, the National Assembly chose not to challenge the Public Protector’s report on the basis of the findings made by the Minister of Police and its last Ad Hoc Committee. Instead it purported to effectively set aside her findings and remedial action, thus usurping the authority vested only in the Judiciary.”

“But, there was everything wrong with the National Assembly stepping into the shoes of the Public Protector, by passing a resolution that purported effectively to nullify the findings made and remedial action taken by the Public Protector and replacing them with its own findings and “remedial action”. This, the rule of law is dead against. It is another way of taking the law into one’s hands and thus constitutes self-help.”

“The ineluctable conclusion is therefore, that the National Assembly’s resolution based on the Minister’s findings exonerating the President from liability is inconsistent with the Constitution and unlawful.”

The Public Protector
“It is doubtful whether the fairly handsome budget, offices and staff all over the country and the time and energy expended on investigations, findings and remedial actions taken, would ever make any sense if the Public Protector’s powers or decisions were meant to be inconsequential.” 

“The Public Protector is thus one of the most invaluable constitutional gifts to our nation in the fight against corruption, unlawful enrichment, prejudice and impropriety in State affairs and for the betterment of good governance.” 

“She is the embodiment of a biblical David, that the public is, who fights the most powerful and very well-resourced Goliath, that impropriety and corruption by government officials are. The Public Protector is one of the true crusaders and champions of anti˗corruption and clean governance.”

“Whether the Public Protector’s decisions amount to administrative action or not, the disregard for remedial action by those adversely affected by it, amounts to taking the law into their own hands and is illegal. No binding and constitutionally or statutorily sourced decision may be disregarded willy-nilly.”

On the Minister of Police’s investigation and subsequent vindication of President Jacob Zuma

“The end-results of the two streams of investigative processes were mutually destructive. The President should then have decided whether to comply with the Public Protector’s remedial action or not. If not, then much more than his mere contentment with the correctness of his own report was called for. A branch of government vested with the authority to resolve disputes by the application of the law should have been approached. And that is the Judiciary.”

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng

Constitutional court order
“The remedial action taken by the Public Protector against President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma in terms of section 182(1)(c) of the Constitution is binding.”

“The National Treasury must determine the reasonable costs of those measures implemented by the Department of Public Works at the President’s Nkandla homestead that do not relate to security, namely the visitors’ centre, the amphitheatre, the cattle kraal, the chicken run and the swimming pool only.”

“The National Treasury must report back to this Court on the outcome of its determination within 60 days of the date of this order. The President must personally pay the amount determined by the National Treasury […] within 45 days of this Court’s signification of its approval of the report.”

“The resolution passed by the National Assembly absolving the President from compliance with the remedial action taken by the Public Protector […] is invalid and is set aside.”

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