SCA to hear Nkandla SMS case

The ANC has appealed an earlier judgment by the South Gauteng High Court.

President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead. Picture: City Press.

JOHANNESBURG - The Supreme Court of Appeal is today expected to hear fresh argument in a case involving the Democratic Alliance (DA)'s controversial Nkandla sms which accuses President Jacob Zuma of stealing.

The ANC has appealed an earlier judgment by the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg which ruled in favour of free speech and declared the SMS to be "fair comment".

The message, which was sent to around 1,5 million people, accuses President Jacob Zuma of "stealing" from South Africans to build his Nkandla home in KwaZulu-Natal.

Acting judge Mike Hellens found that given Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's report, the message amounts to "fair comment" in a country where freedom of speech is protected.

Madonsela's report found that Zuma benefitted unduly from the R250 million upgrades at his home, violated an ethics code, must account to Parliament and pay back some of the money.

The ANC believes it will be able to convince the court that a lower court applied the wrong law to the dispute.

The party's Jackson Mthembu says, "Our electoral law says you can't publish anything that is false as a means of influencing the outcome of the elections."

But the DA's Mmusi Maimane says freedom of speech will win the day even during the election season.

"We believe that the public protector's report still argues there was 'license to loot' and I don't think that wording can be ambiguous."

Judge Hellens tested the DA's SMS against Madonsela's findings to reach his decision.

Hellens found that Madonsela's decision to use the phrase "license to loot" justified the DA's use of the word "stole".

He also discussed South Africa's democracy and the need for accountability, freedom of expression and the country's robust political scene.

To read the full judgment click here.