Zuma: My actions were all in good faith

President Jacob Zuma
President Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma addressed the nation on Friday night in response to the judgment of the Constitutional Court regarding the powers of the Public Protector.

This is what he said:

On the Constitution

Our Constitution commits us, individually and collectively, to build a nation based on the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom, through constitutionalism and the rule of law.

We have well-established institutions that support democracy and which protect the rights of our citizens. Our Constitution also establishes a democratic Parliament. I respect the role of Parliament to hold the Executive to account as true representatives of our people, representing, as it does different voices, views and constituencies.

Guided by the Constitution, we have an independent judiciary which is a trusted final arbiter in disputes in society.

Judgment

I welcome the judgment of the Constitutional Court unreservedly.

The judgment has underscored the values that underpin our hard-won freedom and democracy, such as the rule of law and the accountability of public office bearers, while also respecting the rights of public office bearers facing scrutiny.

The judgment has further strengthened our constitutional democracy and should make South Africans proud of their country’s Constitution, and its strong and effective institutions.

This is a ground-breaking judgment with regards to the powers of the Public Protector.

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the remedial actions of the Public Protector are binding and that anyone wishing to challenge the remedial action can only do so through a review by a court of law.

I respect the judgment and will abide by it.

Payment

I have consistently stated that I would pay an amount towards the Nkandla non-security upgrades once this had been determined by the correct authority. The court has ruled on the matter and has devised a mechanism for such determination by National Treasury.

As alluded to by the court, we participated in the resolution of this matter voluntarily, through the proposal we made before the matter was heard by the court.

Not my fault

I would like to emphasise that it was never my intention not to comply with the remedial action taken against me by the Public Protector, or to disrespect her office.

It is for this reason that on receiving the report, I submitted it and my initial response to it to the National Assembly within 14 days, as required by the Public Protector.

I welcome the finding of the court that it was legally permissible for me to inquire into the correctness of the aspects of the report that I may disagree with.

I also welcome the clarity provided by the Constitutional Court that I should have then taken the matter on review by a court of law in the event of any queries or disagreement.

This interpretation will be followed by the Executive in the future in light of this judgment. It puts an end to any other interpretations of this matter.

I did not act dishonestly

I also respect the finding that failure to comply with the remedial action taken against me by the Public Protector is inconsistent with the Constitution of the republic.

I wish to emphasise that I never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the Constitution.

I did not act dishonestly or with any personal knowledge of the irregularities by the department of public works with regards to the Nkandla project.

The intention was not in pursuit of corrupt ends or to use state resources to unduly benefit me and my family. Hence, I have agreed to pay for the identified items once a determination is made.

Lessons

There are lessons to be learned for all of us in government which augur well for governance in the future.

The Nkandla project brought sharply into focus the problems within the government supply chain mechanisms.

The gross inflation of prices in the Nkandla project is totally unacceptable and should never have been allowed, hence government is improving procurement measures to prevent any future recurrence.

The Office of the Chief Procurement Officer has been established at National Treasury for this purpose of ensuring that strict supply chain procedures are followed by government departments.

Good faith

I wish to reiterate that any action that has been found not to be in keeping with the Constitution happened because of a different approach and different legal advice.

It all happened in good faith and there was no deliberate effort or intention to subvert the Constitution on my part.

With hindsight, there are many matters that could have been handled differently, and which should never have been allowed to drag on this long, which we deeply regret.

The matter has caused a lot of frustration and confusion,
for which I apologise, on my behalf and on behalf of government.

I urge all parties to respect the judgment and abide by it.

Let us use the judgment to build and further strengthen our democracy.

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