A little more than a month after the constitutional court heard arguments in the Economic Freedom Fighters’ and Democratic Alliance’s application for an order that President Jacob Zuma repay some of the R246m spent on his Nkandla home, the court is ready to hand down judgment.
Thursday’s judgment is expected to have a number of facets to it.
The EFF and the DA wanted Zuma to pay back a portion of the money spent on non-security upgrades to his homestead.
A few days before the hearing in February, Zuma sent a letter to the court’s registrar to suggest that it order the auditor-general and finance minister to determine how much he should repay for non-security features at Nkandla.
The constitutional court was expected to make a final order on this.
The opposition parties wanted the court to rule on whether public protector Thuli Madonsela’s remedial action, set out in her March 2014 report, Secure in Comfort, was binding.
During the hearing on 9 February, Madonsela’s lawyer argued about the nature and ambit of her powers and the legal effect of her remedial action.
Madonsela stood by the remedial action set out in her report. But she agreed it was no longer appropriate for the police to help determine the reasonable costs of non-security features.
Jeremy Gauntlett, for Zuma, argued that the Nkandla saga had “traumatised the nation”, which was why he had made his proposal regarding the auditor-general and the national treasury.
He claimed the Public Protector Act was a “statutory curiosity” because it did not elaborate what had to be done regarding remedial action.
Zuma accepted that Madonsela wanted certain things done, but differed on how these had to be done, he added.
Gauntlett put the blame for the fiasco squarely on the shoulders of the department of public works and said police minister Nathi Nhleko’s report meant nothing. Nhleko, in his report, found all the features built at Nkandla were security related and Zuma was thus not liable to pay for any of them.
The EFF wanted the constitutional court to find that Zuma breached his oath of office and constitutional duties by ignoring the public protector’s remedial action.
Gauntlett argued it was a “dangerous year” and warned that if the constitutional court ruled that Zuma did breach his oath of office, opposition parties could use it to have him impeached.
Wim Trengove, for the EFF, said the national assembly violated its constitutional obligations by not holding the president and cabinet to account.
The judges asked speaker Baleka Mbete’s lawyer, Lindi Nkosi-Thomas, if the national assembly had erred in its approach to Madonsela’s remedial action.
“Parliament took a wrong position,” she conceded.