'Historic day for SA, its democracy'
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng explains why the Nkandla judgment is important.
JOHANNESBURG - Today's judgment on the Nkandla case has been described as a "seminal moment" for South Africa's democracy.
The Constitutional Court found that President Jacob Zuma failed to uphold the Constitution, failed to assist or protect the Public Protector and should have complied with her remedial action.
WATCH: Nkandla: The full ConCourt judgment summary
Mogoeng explained why this judgment is important.
"It deals with issues of monumental importance for the people of this country and the well-being of our constitutional democracy. The case provides profound lessons on the nature of, and the wisdom behind, the architectural design of our constitutional democracy."
Mogoeng says the National Assembly should have held Zuma accountable, or challenged the Public Protectors findings in court.
The Chief Justice says the president should have decided whether or not to comply with the Public Protector's remedial action.
Instead, Zuma relied on investigations which exonerated him.
Mogoeng says this was destructive and the only way he could have challenged the Public Protector's findings was to go to court.
"He did not challenge the report through a judicial process. He appeared to have been content with the apparent vindication of this position by the ministers' favourable recommendations and considered himself to have been lawfully absolved."
He went on to say neither the president, nor the National Assembly, is allowed to ignore the Public Protector's remedial action unless it is set aside by a judge.
INTERESTS OF THE POOR
The Chief Justice says the Public Protector safeguards the interests of the poor and acts like a biblical David against the Goliath of corruption.
"For this reason, the fathers and mothers of our Constitution conceived of a way to give even to the poor and marginalised a voice, and teeth that would bite corruption and abuse excruciatingly; that is the Public Protector. She is the embodiment of a biblical David who fights the most powerful and very well-resourced Goliath that impropriety and corruption by government officials are."
Mogoeng says the Nkandla ruling now places the focus on the importance of the "separation of power".
"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."
To read the full judgment by the ConCourt on Nkandla, click here.
To read the full statement by the Presidency, click here.
To view EWN's feature on key moments from the Nkandla saga, click here