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SCA judgment on Motsoeneng sets tone for Nkandla matter

Yesterday's judgment gave the highest ruling yet on the powers of the Public Protector's office.

FILE. A view of the homestead of South African President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla in January 2014. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - It's now expected that the outcome of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA)'s case, involving the South African Broadcasting Corporation's (SABC) Hlaudi Motsoeneng, will have a profound impact on the Constitutional Court's deliberation over the Nkandla matter.

Yesterday, the court dismissed Motsoeneng's appeal against a Western Cape High Court order that he be suspended pending the outcome of a disciplinary process.

The judgment has also given the highest ruling yet on the powers of the Public Protector, clarifying that her findings are binding and can only be overturned by a court.

This issue is at the heart of the Economic Freedom Fighters' legal bid to get President Jacob Zuma to pay back money relating to the upgrades at his Nkandla home.

Senior Lecturer in Public Law Cathy Powell says the Constitutional Court will have to, in essence, agree or overturn this latest judgment.

"We got here because of the refusal of mainly government bodies to face facts. There seems to be this strange attitude that law can mean whatever you decide it is. The point is, if certain facts have been established by the Public Protector, they lead to certain legal conclusions and you cannot escape that."

Meanwhile, opposition parties are aware that the judgment has ramifications for President Jacob Zuma and the executive's handling of the Nkandla scandal.

The DA's James Selfe says, "It has major implications for the force and effect of the of remedial action taken by the Public Protector, with obvious implications for what she said about Nkandla."

Economic Freedom Front (EFF) spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, says the judgment is a boost for the party's 'pay back the money' campaign.

"We call on President Zuma to do the right thing - commit to pay back the money. Give us a date and time and the method of payment, so that the South African people can once and for all move beyond this question."

Congress of the People (Cope)'s Dennis Bloem says Zuma must abide by the Public Protector's remedial action.

"Nobody can question the findings and recommendations of the Public Protector."

The Public Protector found the president benefited unduly from the non-security features, which formed part of the R246 million Nkandla project.