High hopes as ConCourt ruling on Nkandla looms

Today’s ruling will settle a long-running dispute over Madonsela’s powers & clarify if Zuma broke the law.

The Constitutional Court, situated between Hillbrow and Braamfontein. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Constitutional Court will hand down judgment in the Nkandla case this morning which will settle a long-running dispute over the powers of the Public Protector and clarify whether President Jacob Zuma broke the law by ignoring Thuli Madonsela's findings.

Judges have taken just over a month to weigh up arguments from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the Democratic Alliance (DA), the National Assembly speaker and Madonsela.

Zuma had previously refused to pay back the money saying Madonsela's orders, which she made in her report entitled 'Secure in Comfort', two years ago, were merely recommendations.

Madonsela attended the day arguments were heard in the case, and she says she's looking forward to confirmation from the highest court in the land that South Africa is a 'Constitutional democracy' - not a 'parliamentary one'.

"I think it's a good thing to start embracing the truth."

Madonsela and her office investigated how around a quarter of a billion rand was spent on Zuma's private home in Nkandla.

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In a surprising move last month, Zuma admitted that the Public Protector's findings are in fact binding, and he offered to pay back some of the money.

His lawyer Jeremy Gauntlett argued that there was simply an error in law.

The EFF spearheaded the case, and its lawyer Wim Trengove argued that Zuma had violated his ethical and duty by defying the Public Protector.

At the same time, lawyers representing Parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete conceded that the National Assembly acted on a wrong principle in terms of holding Zuma accountable.

Her lawyer, Lindi Nkosi-Thomas also made a concession when asked by the Chief Justice why the National Assembly didn't hold Zuma accountable.

"Parliament acted on the wrong principle, thinking at the time that the principle was correct."


As Zuma has now conceded that he will have to pay back some of the money spent by government on his home, the real question this morning is whether judges will find that he broke the provisions of the Constitution by not implementing the findings of the Public Protector.

Opposition parties will be hoping that this judgment will provide a legal basis for them to start impeachment processes in Parliament, even though the African National Congress (ANC) has the majority.

But the president's position within the ANC also appears weaker than it was, because of the scandal around the Gupta family.

This means that a strong finding against him today could make him vulnerable to some kind of challenge to his leadership of the ANC.