'Deliberately misinterpreting' ConCourt judgment is a criminal offence - Advocates

2016-04-14 09:51
Dumisa Ntsebeza.

Dumisa Ntsebeza. (Felix Dlangamandla, Foto24)

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Johannesburg - Advocates for Transformation on Thursday warned public officials against "deliberately misinterpreting" the Constitutional Court's judgment on the Nkandla matter.

"To do so amounts to the criminal offence of contempt of court for which the perpetrators can be committed to prison, more so when it is committed opportunistically and in the full knowledge of the fact that judges are not in a position to defend themselves or their decision in the media and the public domain," AFT chairperson advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza said in a statement.

He said the contention that President Jacob Zuma may not have intentionally violated the Constitution, did not diminish the seriousness of it.

"[This] flies directly against the clear wording used in the judgment to the effect that his “innocent” state of mind would not 'detract from the illegality of his conduct'."


The Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma violated the Constitution by ignoring Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's remedial action to repay some of the money spent on so-called security upgrades to his private Nkandla homestead.

Earlier this month, during the Parliamentary debate on the motion to remove the president, Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery said the court did not say Zuma seriously violated the Constitution in his handling of the Public Protector.

"It is the [Democratic Alliance], not the Constitutional Court that is saying that the president committed a serious violation of our Constitution," he said.

Following the court's judgment, Zuma, addressing the nation on SABC, said he did not "knowingly or deliberately" violate the Constitution.

The calls for Zuma to resign have increased since the judgment, but the ANC extended national working committee said it accepted the president's apology.

Ntsebeza said Zuma's apology for the "frustration and confusion" caused by the Nkandla matter may have been heartfelt but it did not detract from the Constitutional Court's finding.

Lack of remorse

"... Nor does it amount to an apology for the violations identified by the Constitutional Court.

"This lack of remorse is only surpassed by the refusal of the Speaker of Parliament to apologise at all for the violations committed by the majority of the members of Parliament."

The Constitutional Court found that the National Assembly also failed to uphold the Constitution when it set aside Madonsela's report.

However, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete on Sunday said Parliament did not owe the Public Protector an apology.

"I don't know who owes the Public Protector an apology as far as Parliament is concerned… Our procedures are not being questioned by the judgment," she told reporters.

Ntsebeza said given the seriousness of the court's findings and the implications on the country's constitutional democracy, the AFT was calling on the National Assembly and the executive to demonstrate commitment to the "letter and spirit" of the Constitution and act on the orders given in the judgment.

Read more on:    dumisa ntsebeza  |  jacob zuma  |  nkandla upgrade  |  judiciary

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