‘The Nkandla saga must be finalised’

Judgment has been reserved in the ConCourt battle between the Zuma, EFF, DA & the Public Protector.

Advocates representing President Jacob Zuma, the EFF, the DA and the Public Protector in the Constitutional Court during a hearing over the Nkandla debacle. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma's lawyers have argued that the Nkandla saga must be finalised, saying it's a delicate time of the year and his response to the Public Protector's report was simply an error in law.

Jeremy Gauntlett, who is representing Zuma, says if the Constitutional Court rules against the president, it may open the doors to impeachment.

During marathon legal arguments yesterday, the court heard that Zuma had accepted Thuli Madonsela's remedial action as binding and he will pay back some of the money spent on upgrading his Nkandla home, but argued that there was an error in law.

But the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) argued that this is not enough because Zuma did not uphold the Constitution in his decision to disregard Madonsela's recommendations.

Gauntlett has told the highest court in the land that the president should have complied with the Public Protector's remedial action.

He however said that Zuma acted in defiance.

"The EFF and the Public Protector both accept that the president has acted by mistake. This is new territory. The powers of the ombud have not been tested as they have been prior to the SABC case."

Wim Trengove, who is representing the EFF, says it's not enough to simply pay back the money and move forward.

"The president has violated his duty to uphold the Constitution, under Section 83 B, and his oath of office for almost two years."

Lawyers representing the EFF say the least the Constitutional Court can do is declare that Zuma acted in violation of his duties under the Constitution.

Trengove says it's a victory for his clients that the president will be paying back some of money spent on Nkandla, but he says this is simply not enough.

He yesterday argued that Zuma failed to uphold the Constitution and failed to assist the Public Protector.

"It is incumbent of this court to devise an appropriate remedy. The very lowest/softest appropriate remedy is a clarity order, one that declares that the president has acted in violation of the Constitution."

Zuma's lawyers say the matter of payment should be finalised as soon as possible.

Judgment has been reserved.

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Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi says watching lawyers for the president and Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko yesterday was difficult.

"There's a song that they sang in the 80s, 'We are on a road to nowhere', and it seems the legal representatives of Parliament and the police minister in particular, were floundering."

He says it's clear this issue is going to weaken Zuma further in the African National Congress (ANC).

But the real question may be whether he is weak enough for someone to challenge him.

And if that is the case, who would actually take over at this point?

LISTEN: President Zuma: South Africa is happy with me

To read the Public Protector's full report on spending at Nkandla, click here.

To read the letter from the Constitutional Court, click here.