ConCourt's Nkandla SMS ruling 'victory for political freedom'

The Constitutional Court was asked to review a decision by the Electoral Court which agreed with the ANC.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Democratic Alliance (DA) says the Constitutional Court ruling over its controversial Nkandla SMS has reinforced the party's call for President Jacob Zuma to be held accountable for spending hundreds of millions of rands on upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.

The court sided with the opposition party in a legal battle over a controversial SMS sent during last year's elections, finding that it constituted 'fair comment'.

During last year's elections, the DA sent out a bulk SMS about the multimillion rand security upgrades at the president's private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.

The Constitutional Court was asked to review a decision by the Electoral Court which agreed with the African National Congress (ANC)'s challenge against the text message.

In the SMS, the DA accused Zuma of stealing taxpayers' money, which the ANC disputed and decided to fight in the Electoral Court.

The SMS followed findings by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela that President Jacob Zuma and his family unduly benefitted from some of the money spent on his Nkandla home.

The DA's Mmusi Maimane described today's ruling as a victory for political freedom.

"We celebrate that the court upholds the principles of our Constitution."

But the ANC's Zizi Kodwa says the SMS was an outright attack on democracy.

Kodwa says the DA was wrong to send the SMS because it disguised misleading information as fair comment with the intention to influence voters.

"The SMS was misleading because it was not fact."

But Maimane maintains the president benefited unduly from the upgrades.

"The people of South Africa's money was wasted on Nkandla, building a house for one man."

The DA has criticised the ANC's handling of the Nkandla scandal, saying today's ruling reinforces it's call for the president to account for the spending on upgrades to his KwaZulu-Natal home.

The Constitutional Court found the SMS did not violate the electoral code and act.

The court said that the SMS was the opposition party's opinion and not fact and therefore the DA did not break the law by sending the SMS.

The court also found that it was unnecessary to rule on whether the SMS was false and ordered the judgement of the Electoral Court to be set aside with costs.

The opposition party says it still maintains that the Zuma benefited unduly from the upgrades at his home.

The SMS debacle comes as the president faces a threat to his State of the Nation Address being disrupted over the same issue.