“We’ll see you in court.” With these words Economic Freedom Front leader Julius Malema told President Jacob Zuma the party was going to the Constitutional Court to force him to pay back some of the R246-million spent on Nkandla.
Malema’s words ended yesterday’s question-and-answer session in the National Assembly during which the EFF failed to get Zuma to say when he would pay back the money, as recommended by the public protector.
Zuma had avoided answering the question, saying he would reply to all questions on Nkandla as soon as the parliamentary probe of the matter was finalised.
Malema was unhappy with the response and the president’s answers to other questions.
“Your minister attacks the judiciary, you know nothing about it. Your minister closes a mine, you know nothing about it. And that becomes the response of a sitting state president and that becomes a huge embarrassment to the country,” the EFF leader said.
He was referring to Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s accusation that judges were influenced by outsiders, and the order by Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi that Glencore, the world’s largest commodities trading company, shut its Optimum coal mine because he disapproves of its retrenchment process.
Malema said: “The Nkandla matter has become a huge problem . we believe strongly that you should pay back something. The only report [on Nkandla] that is legitimate and legal is advocate Thuli Madonsela’s, not these illegal activities that have been happening in this parliament.”
Malema said the question of when and how Zuma would pay back the money would not go away until it was answered with specific details.
After the parliamentary sitting EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu said the party had asked the Constitutional Court to compel Zuma to comply with the public protector’s recommended remedial actions.
“We have taken this action to illustrate that what parliament is doing is illegal and unconstitutional,” he said. “We believe the court will enforce the public protector’s findings. If it does not it means that politicians can ride roughshod over this country and its constitutional organisations.”
Madonsela said the EFF and anyone else for that matter was well within their rights to deal with the Nkandla matter as they saw fit.
“We have a rule in my office that we do not approach the courts for remedial actions to be enforced. This is strategic as we are there to support and strengthen constitutional democracy. We play our part by highlighting any wrongdoing and what needs to be corrected.
“We then trust the people [South Africans] to take the matter further in the event that there is a deadlock.” Advocate Johan Kruger, director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, said going to the Constitutional Court on the public protector’s report was the right decision: “The manner in which the National Assembly has dealt with this matter is inconsistent with the constitutional provisions relating to effective oversight and accountablity in favour of a version presented to it by the executive.
“This flies in the face of the purpose of the Chapter 9 institutions such as the public protector.”
He said, in his opinion, the National Assembly had failed to consider the public protector’s report in a manner that was rational and reasonable. If it had failed to so, its failure was reviewable by a court.
“In terms of the constitution only the Constitutional Court can decide that parliament or the president has failed to fulfil their constitutional obligation,” Kruger said.
On the chances of the EFF’s application succeeding, Kruger said the party should, through the court, challenge the National Assembly’s failure to deal with the matter appropriately.
Until the assembly dealt with the protector’s report in a manner that was rational, the decision could be taken on review every time.