ANC, DA back in court over Nkandla SMS

The Supreme Court of Appeal is now hearing the ANC’s case against Zuma being called a thief.

President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal, which allegedly cost nearly R250 million to upgrade. Picture: City Press.

JOHANNESBURG - The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) is now hearing the ANC's application relating to a controversial Democratic Alliance (DA) SMS campaign which accuses President Jacob Zuma of stealing.

The message, which was sent to around 1,5 million South Africans, labelled the president a thief following Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's Nkandla report.

She found Zuma unduly benefitted from nearly R250 upgrades to his private KwaZulu-Natal homestead.

During an earlier court case, the ANC said the DA's SMS was baseless as the president had not been found guilty on any crime.

The ruling party wanted the DA to retract the accusation and apologise.

But the High Court in Johannesburg ruled in the DA's favour, finding the SMS was in fact "fair comment" in a country with constitutionally protected freedom of speech.

Acting judge Mike Hellens found Madonsela's decision to use the phrase "licence to loot" in her report justified the DA's use of the word "stole".

The ANC was successful in its appeal application.

The ruling party is appealing the matter at the Bloemfontein court and is arguing the electoral code bars the publishing of untruths aimed at influencing the outcome of polls.

The DA has vehemently defended the SMS and earlier judgment, which also considered the applicability of freedom of speech, even during election season.

Lawyers representing the ANC say by forcing the DA to apologise, South Africa's democracy will be strengthened because all parties will be forced to abide by the same laws.

South Africans go to the polls on 7 May.