/ 31 March 2016

Opposition calls for Zuma’s ouster after Concourt judgment

A sea of reporters greeted Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane outside the Constitutional Court
A sea of reporters greeted Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane outside the Constitutional Court

Calls by opposition parties for impeachment, mass action and snap elections filled the South African airwaves shortly after Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s damning judgment on the Nkandla upgrades – and the actions of the president and the National Assembly in defending them – on Thursday.

Some, like United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, even appealed to the ANC to “do the right thing” and recall President Jacob Zuma after Constitutional Court judges found unanimously that he had failed to uphold the Constitution by ignoring the public protector’s recommendations.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, who addressed the media at the party’s Braamfontein headquarters shortly after the ruling, had less faith in the governing party.

He said if Parliament failed to dissolve itself and call snap elections, the masses should take to the streets.

“We have no problem participating in a march led by any other person who says: ‘Enough is enough,’?” he said.

It was his EFF, joined by the Democratic Alliance, who asked the Constitutional Court to order Zuma to pay back public money spent on non-security renovations to his Nkandla home.

“We must call for an election. That Parliament has failed our people,” Malema said. EFF MPs would prevent Zuma from speaking in Parliament again, he said.

Emerging from court to face an army of local and international television cameras and journalists waiting outside, DA leader Mmusi Maimane announced that his party has already filed a motion in Parliament to impeach Zuma.

“If I was President Jacob Zuma, I would be preparing my letter of resignation,” Maimane said.

Two-thirds of National Assembly members would have to vote in favour of the motion for Zuma to be impeached.

The DA might also be taking to the streets, but as yet there are no plans to join Malema’s marches. Maimane told the Mail & Guardian that his party would announce a plan of action, which would include mass action and rallies, leading up to the local government elections.

Former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who was in a jovial mood as he left the court at Holomisa’s side, said Zuma has “undermined everything [that] the real ANC all of us joined is all about”.

He added: “They stand accused today, whereas they led the struggle to get us this constitutional order. They are now in the dock for violating and undermining the spirit of the Constitution.”

No ANC leaders were in court.

Journalists, opposition politicians and civil society activists sitting in the court’s public benches were quiet for the hour it took for Mogoeng to deliver the judgment. Afterwards, when the justices left the Bench, there was brief, but respectful – and somewhat relieved – applause.

Outside the courtroom, some embraced each other, shook hands and laughed.

There were only about five supporters with EFF T-shirts outside the court in Johannesburg.

A lone white man with long hair and a camera briefly interrupted Maimane’s impromptu press conference on the court steps by shouting: “Zuma must fall.” He was quickly silenced by journalists.

The real action is to follow in the days and weeks to come.

What No 1 gets for free

The Constitutional Court on Thursday ruled that President Jacob Zuma must repay a portion of the money spent on what has become the Big Five items built at Nkandla: the kraal, the chicken run, the amphitheatre, a visitors’ centre and the infamous firepool.

The court limited Zuma’s liability for those features, despite acknowledging that his family possibly drew further benefit, and that public protector Thuli Madonsela had in mind spending beyond the Big Five. Madonsela, the court said, had originally thought that the minister of police should help Zuma “determine what other non-security features could be added to the list of five”.

In her report, Madonsela focused on the Big Five, but also noted the private medical clinic built on the grounds, and the costly paving and landscaping.

The Special Investigating Unit, acting on Zuma’s orders, went further, putting amounts to other government-funded work done at Nkandla that it found were not security requirements.

This is what he has now been freed from having to consider for repayment:

  • R21.2-million for lifts in and emergency escape tunnels under the residences;
  • R10.6-million for the relocation of households that were moved away from the residences;
  • R4.5-million for two roads for the use of the Zuma family;
  • R4-million for air-conditioning in the residences; and
  • R3.4-million for landscaping around the residences.

With the exception of the cattle kraal, no investigation found that Zuma asked for such lavish additions to his homestead, but the court said he held some responsibility for them nonetheless.

It is a “self-evident reality”, said Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, that some features “were installed because the people involved knew they were dealing with the president … A person in the position of the president should be alive to this reality and must guard against its eventuation.” – Phillip de Wet

ConCourt waxes lyrical

Excerpts from Thursday’s landmark Constitutional Court judgment on Nkandla.

  • “… public office-bearers ignore their constitutional obligations at their peril. This is so because constitutionalism, accountability and the rule of law constitute the sharp and mighty sword that stands ready to chop the ugly head of impunity off its stiffened neck.” • “On the one hand, the president has the duty to ensure that state resources are used only for the advancement of state interests. On the other hand, there is the real risk of him closing an eye to possible wastage, if he is likely to derive personal benefit from indifference.”
  • “[Public protector Thuli Madonsela] is the embodiment of a biblical David … who fights the most powerful and very well-resourced Goliath …[she] is one of the true crusaders and champions of anti-corruption and clean governance … She is not to be inhibited, undermined or sabotaged.” – Phillip de Wet