Get the lowdown on tomorrow's judgement on the Nkandla saga

The Constitutional Court hands down judgment tomorrow which will determine whether or not President Jacob Zuma defied the Public Protector's orders to pay back the money spent on his Nkandla homestead.

Why is the Constitutional Court’s decision on President Jacob Zuma and the Public Protector so crucial ? University of Cape Town Senior Public Law lecturer Cathy Powell unpacks the legal scenarios?

Cathy Powell says that the ruling tomorrow is vital for the long term work of the Public Protector's office.

The effect on the current issue is, she argues, fairly negligible, as the president has already conceded that he should have given effect to the the Public Protector's report on Nkandla.

But if it confirms that the Public protector;s recommendations were binding...then the Public Protector as an office in South Africa is strengthened for the rest of our constitutional life.

Cathy Powell, Senior Public Law Lecturer, UCT

What exactly is the Constitutional Court ruling on tomorrow?

It is ruling on whether the the President and Parliament failed to fulfill a Constitutional obligation, bu not giving effect to the recommendations in the Public Protector's report on Nkandla.

In the President's case that he was supposed to get the Minister of Police and Treasury to find out what the non-security upgrades at Nkandla cos, and then to pay it back.

In the case of Parliament, they were meant to hold the president to account on the basis of the report.

The President did not carry out his assigned role, and neither did Parliament.

Both of them in effect, relied on an alternative report produced by the Minister of Police.

Cathy Powell, Senior Public Law Lecturer, UCT

What is the legal consequence for President Jacob Zuma and for Parliament if the Constitutional Court rules that they were in breach of the Constitution and their Constitutional obligations?

What are the consequences for Parliament?

The legal consequence is that Parliament must now do something about that, but the Court cannot do it for them.

Cathy Powell, Senior Public Law Lecturer, UCT

Though I think in this case, the ruling form the Court will be clear that Parliament cannot accept somebody else's report in place of the Public Protector's report.

Cathy Powell, Senior Public Law Lecturer, UCT

What are the consequences for President Zuma?

Politically I think he will be weakened, and the effect that is going to have is going to depend on the power blocks currently aligned and especially within the ANC.

Legally it simply means he has got to pay back at least R 10.5 million...so legally he's got to pay back the money.

Cathy Powell, Senior Public Law Lecturer, UCT

Powell says we do not know yet how 'interventionist' the Constitutional Court is going to be in terms of timelines for payment.

She says the Court has a couple of options.

The first is that it could rule on the intention with which Jacob Zuma failed to fulfill his Constitutional obligations - in other words, did he do it because he did not understand what his obligations were? or did he deliberately flout it?

Secondly, says Powell, the level of seriousness with which the Court takes the violations of the President and Parliament, will effect the political fallout.

South Africa's eyes will be turned to the Constitutional Court at 10 am tomorrow morning to find out.


This article first appeared on 702 : Get the lowdown on tomorrow's judgement on the Nkandla saga


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