When President Jacob Zuma delivers his state of the nation address (Sona) on Thursday, he will be surrounded by police officers from three units that have been deployed to Parliament to beef up parliamentary security.
Among the “massive call-up” of uniformed officers from the police’s public order policing and visible policing units will be seasoned detectives from the Hawks’ crimes against the state unit.
This unit, headed by Brigadier Nyameka Xaba, investigates espionage, sabotage, fraud and corruption.
The officers are set to have plenty to guard against.
In an interview with City Press, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has warned that if President Zuma wants to deliver his address uninterrupted, he must first apologise for “the nonsense he did” when he fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister.
Zuma is unlikely to oblige.
But even before his address, President Zuma will have to convince the Constitutional Court on Tuesday that his apparent commitment to pay back some of the public money spent on upgrades to his Nkandla home can be reconciled against past attempts to apparently “second-guess” and ignore findings made by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
Zuma’s lawyers have revealed that he is taking the case so seriously that he asked to be personally taken through the court papers.
On Thursday, Cape Town will be buzzing with potential drama because the city has granted permission to the #ZumaMustFall movement, the DA and the Ses’Khona People’s Rights Movement to protest in separate marches in the city centre just hours before Zuma’s annual address.
City Press has also established that security officials proposed this week that a 2km exclusion radius or security zone be established on the day, but this plan was shot down by politicians who argued that this would completely lock down the city centre.
Last year’s Sona proceedings were interrupted after EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee asked President Zuma when he was going to pay back a portion of the R246 million spent on his home as per Madonsela’s recommendations. Tensions reached boiling point and Speaker Baleka Mbete called in police and parliamentary security officers to kick out the protesting EFF MPs. Other opposition party members also left the National Assembly in solidarity.
Malema promises eventful week
Speaking ahead of what he promised would be “a very eventful week”, Malema said President Zuma needed to explain and apologise to South Africans for plunging them into a “huge” financial crisis.
Malema’s big week will begin on Tuesday, when 5 000 EFF members are expected to march from Newtown to the Constitutional Court, where the Nkandla case is being heard.
Malema told City Press: “We had a lot of people confirming; no fewer than 25 000 people. But we don’t have the capacity to bring them all, because we don’t have the money; we are challenged. So I think we will manage to bring 5 000.”
The party has vowed to bring President Zuma’s address to a grinding halt should he not explain to its satisfaction why Nene was axed in December last year.
The EFF’s “war on corruption” began on Thursday when Malema announced that the party’s march would also be directed at the controversial Gupta family, which he said needed to leave South Africa.
“We are going to win in the Constitutional Court and there is going to be a nice surprise party for the Guptas on the ninth [of February].
“And in Parliament, the same old story is going to happen. We are going to come and challenge the president, and the white shirts [the term used to describe the cops who last year disguised themselves in white shirts] are going to come in and then we are going to start with the gymnastics.
“And then we are going to ultimately be defeated and taken out, but history will record that we are the only ones who consistently challenge this rot that is happening. Like [opposition MP during apartheid] Helen Suzman, the account of history is so good for her,” added Malema.
Malema said that even if the finance minister debacle had not happened and the Nkandla matter had been resolved, Sona would still have been disrupted.
Zuma’s hopes of a court win
The EFF and DA’s best hope for convincing the Constitutional Court on Tuesday that President Zuma never meant to comply with Madonsela’s findings is Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s Nkandla report, which attempted to exonerate Zuma from paying back any money at all.
While constitutional law experts have argued that the president’s bid to settle the matter out of court this week could put his legal team on the back foot come Tuesday’s hearing, President Zuma will be hoping that respected senior advocate Jeremy Gauntlett will be his trump card.
The president usually retains Kemp J Kemp as lead counsel, and the fact that he has hired a bigger legal gun is an indication of just how seriously the matter is being taken.
According to its heads of argument, the EFF has asked to approach the Constitutional Court directly, based on a section of the Constitution that gives the court sole responsibility for deciding if the president or Parliament has failed to fulfil a constitutional duty.
The DA has argued for direct access to the Constitutional Court on the separate constitutional grounds that it would be in the interests of justice for the court to hear the case, partly because there is so much overlap between the two cases.
Although the EFF and the DA’s cases differ, both are asking the court to order President Zuma to comply with Madonsela’s proposed remedial actions.
President Zuma’s lawyers have accused the EFF and the DA of using a “political ploy”, saying the parties “jumped the gun” because the process to determine how much money Zuma should repay – which it claims started with Nhleko’s Nkandla report – is still under way.
But legal experts and constitutional lawyers agree that Nhleko’s report could well be Zuma’s biggest headache. The problem for the presidency is that Nhleko’s report directly contradicts Madonsela’s specific findings that features such as the infamous “fire pool”, cattle kraal and amphitheatre are not security related.
Nhleko determined that these were in fact security features and that Zuma therefore did not have to pay for them. The DA and EFF argue that the fact that Nhleko’s report contradicts Madonsela’s indicates that his was a parallel process intended to replace Madonsela’s findings.
However, the opposition parties will have their own hurdles to overcome at Tuesday’s hearing.
The procedure the Constitutional Court follows is different to those in lower courts and the court will still have to be convinced that it should hear the case directly.
Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said this was the one major weakness in the EFF’s case and the court could really rule “either way”.
This could also be problematic for the DA, given that its case for direct access to the court is so closely related to the EFF’s.
Cops in Parliament
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed that members of the crimes against the state unit would be in Parliament during President Zuma’s address.
“They will not be in the forefront. Visible policing and public order units will be in the forefront, and the Hawks will be on stand-by to deal with serious threats,” he said.
Mulaudzi declined to reveal how many police officers would be deployed to Parliament, but said that their officers were not going to be targeting EFF members, but would “be assisting other law enforcement agencies that will be deployed during the event”.