High noon for Jacob Zuma

2014-03-19 10:08
Nkandla (Giordano Stolley, Sapa)

Nkandla (Giordano Stolley, Sapa)

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Nkandla timeline

2014-03-19 08:30

Thuli Madonsela's final report into Nkandla will be released today. See a timeline of the most significant dates of the Nkandla saga. VIEW

Mayibongwe Maqhina, The Witness

Durban - South Africa will on Wednesday learn Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's findings on the R206m upgrade to President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home - but Zuma will likely survive unscathed, experts predicted.

Madonsela's long-awaited and heavily contested report into the affair that has dominated headlines for more than two years is expected to show that Zuma misled Parliament, among other findings.

Leaked details of the preliminary report published at the end of last year indicated that Madonsela will ask Parliament to sanction the president personally on at least two counts, among her other findings.

Slap on the wrist

However, on Tuesday experts said that even if Madonsela found Zuma had misled Parliament, he was likely to get little more than a slap on the wrist as a result of her findings.

They said the Constitution only provided for the removal of the president when they were found incapable of carrying out their duties or found guilty of a criminal offence.

“I don’t think the drafters of the Constitution had envisaged a situation where a president could mislead Parliament, but a case can still be made in that regard,” political analyst Prince Mashele said.

Mashele said if it was found that Zuma misled Parliament, the institution had two options. “The speaker can demand that he make an apology and reprimand him. The other option is to call for the president to resign,” he said.

He was convinced that the opposition would prefer the president’s resignation while the ANC would prefer the apology

“I would not think the ANC would want the matter to be discussed. There would not be an apology to discuss considering that Parliament is to be dissolved before the elections,” Mashele added.

Mashele also said while there could be some within the ANC who may be unhappy with Zuma, there was no grouping within the ruling party that would call for the president to be sacked.

“The block the president belongs to is too strong so they would take stern action against those who may harbour those feelings. It would be a muted backlash,” Mashele said.

Possible legal action

But Shadrack Gutto, constitutional law expert from Institute of African Renaissance at Unisa, said while the Constitution did not provide a remedy for a president misleading Parliament, the law-making body could use its discretion on how to tackle the matter.

“Parliament can pass a resolution asking him to repay, but knowing that the ANC is in [the majority in Parliament] I don’t think that will happen,” Gutto said.

He said should no action be taken against Zuma, it would open the way for civil society to take legal action in the courts to force the president to repay money spent at his homestead.

“If he is not removed, he will have to account and repay,” he said, adding that the state institutions would have to recoup any money used illegally.

Advocate Paul Hoffman, director of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, said Madonsela’s report was in all likelihood going to find that Zuma misled Parliament.

“If that is the case there will be a difficult situation for the president similar to when he faced 783 charges in 2009,” Hoffman said.

He said Zuma may challenge the adverse finding just as he did with the criminal charges he had faced before he became the president.

'There will be criticism'

Independent political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe agreed that Zuma may be within his rights to have the Public Protector findings reviewed by court.

“We wait to see if she won’t be challenged on having rushed her findings. She can rest assured that there will be criticism,” Seepe said.

Hoffman also said the ANC was likely to rally behind Zuma and not push for his resignation.

“It is unlikely the ANC will have a change of heart so soon after Mangaung conference.”

The experts said they did not foresee any backlash against Madonsela or her office if she made adverse findings against Zuma barring public attacks from the ANC.

Gutto said intimidation to weaken the Public Protector’s office may well be in store for Madonsela, but there was no way that she could be removed unless Parliament was manipulated.

“The Public Protector and Auditor-General can be removed on the grounds of incapacity and misconduct, but she conducted herself very well,” he said, adding that a two-thirds majority would be required to pass a resolution.

Read more on:    public protector  |  jacob zuma  |  thuli madonsela  |  nkandla upgrade  |  government spending  |  politics
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