ConCourt: Parliament has failed to hold Zuma to account

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the National Assembly failed to put in place mechanisms to hold President Zuma accountable. The EFF, Cope and the UDM asked the highest court to compel Parliament to hold the president to account after its Nkandla judgement.

Judge Chris Jafta, reading the orders, said the National Assembly failed to make rules to hold the president to account and must now urgently make those rules.

“The National Assembly must fulfil obligations without delay,” Jafta said, further ordering the president and parliament to pay costs associated with this case.

ConCourt Judgement- 29 December 2017

Writing on Facebook, M&G columnist Eusebius McKaiser said it is important the scope of the court’s ruling is understood.

“The core issue is important but narrower than misconceptions about what it is: Has Parliament violated its duty to put mechanisms in place to hold the President accountable?” he said.

Jafta described Friday’s judgement as a sequel to the court’s judgement on the Public Protector’s Nkandla report last year.

The Nkandla judgement in March 2016 found that remedial action directed by the public protector was binding unless it was set aside by a court. By failing to implement the remedial action directed by former public protector Thuli Madonsela in her Secure in Comfort report, Zuma had breached the Constitution, said a unanimous ConCourt last year.

In 2014 Madonsela found that the president had unduly benefited from the non-security-related upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, such as the swimming pool and visitors’ centre. She directed Zuma to pay back a reasonable portion of the cost of these.

Last year, the ConCourt also found that Parliament, by absolving the president from complying with the remedial action, breached its duty to hold the executive to account.

Chief Justice Mogoeng however disagrees with his colleagues in their judgement.

Reading from a note handed to him by Mogoeng, Justice Jafta said: “The Chief Justice characterises the majority judgement as a textbook case of judicial overreach, a constitutionally impermissible intrusion by the judiciary into the exclusive domain of Parliament.”

In a statement, the ANC said it has noted the judgement and will respond following a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee early next month. 

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Khadija Patel
Khadija Patel pushes words on street corners. She is the editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, a co-founder of the The Daily Vox and vice chairperson of the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI). As a journalist she has produced work for Sky News, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Quartz, City Press and the Daily Maverick, among others. She is also a research associate at WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Witwatersrand) and has previously worked in community media. In 2017, she was among 11 people from across Africa and the diaspora who were awarded the inaugural Africa #NoFilter fellowship from the Ford Foundation and in 2018, she was awarded honorary membership of the Golden Key Society. She is passionate about the protection and enhancement of global media as a public good.

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