President Jacob Zuma on Friday night said he welcomed the Constitutional Court’s judgment on spending at his Nkandla home “unreservedly”.
Addressing the nation live on SABC television, he said the judgment had underscored the values of the country’s hard-won freedom and democracy.
“The judgment has further strengthened our constitutional democracy and should make South Africans proud of their country’s Constitution…. This is a ground-breaking judgment,” said Zuma.
Zuma further said that he was always willing to pay back money used for non-security related upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.
“I respected the judgment and will abide by it,” Zuma said.
“I have consistently stated that I would pay an amount towards the Nkandla non security upgrades once this had been determined by the correct authority.”
However, Zuma has for over two years maintained that he would not pay back any of the money which was used towards the upgrades, adding that he had not asked for them.
But on Thursday the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma had violated the Constitution in doing this. It ordered him to pay back the funds.
Zuma said he accepted the ruling and would comply. “It was never my intention not to comply with the remedial action taken against me by the public protector or to disrespect her office.”
Public protector Thuli Madonsela found in her report Secure in Comfort, released in March 2014, that Zuma had unduly benefited from some of the upgrades. She recommended that he repay a reasonable portion of the R246m spent on the upgrades and that the ministers involved in the project be reprimanded.
Zuma also said on Friday night that he did not deliberately violate the Constitution in relation to the public protector’s report into spending on his Nkandla home.
“I also respect the finding that failure to comply with the remedial action taken against me by the public protector is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic,” he said in his address. “I wish to emphasise that I never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the Constitution which is the supreme law of the Republic.”
He said he wished to confirm that he had no personal knowledge of the irregularities.
In closing, Zuma apologised to South Africa and its citizens.
“The judgment has helped me and my colleagues to reflect deeply on the entire matter,” Zuma said.
“With hindsight, there are many matters that could have been handled differently and which should never have been allowed to drag on this long, which we deeply regret.
“The matter has caused a lot of frustration and confusion for which I apologise on my behalf and on behalf of government.”
Zuma said the judgement should help government to further build and strengthen our democracy.
“The judgment has been very helpful. There are lessons to be learned for those in government that augurs well for future governance,” he added.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said on Thursday that “the National Treasury must determine the reasonable costs of those measures implemented by the Department of Public Works at Zuma’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 Constitutional Court also found that Zuma and the National Assembly acted against the Constitution by disregarding Madonsela’s report.
Since the ruling, opposition parties have called for Zuma to step down. – News24 (Edited by Michelle Solomon)