Victory for All: 5 Facts from the ConCourt’s Nkandla Ruling

South Africa’s constitutional democracy is based on the values of accountability, rule of law and the supremacy of our Constitution, a Constitution that protects citizens against unchecked abuse of State power and resources. In today’s unanimous Constitutional Court judgement the court gave effect to these principles, thereby posing a stern warning to office bearers who ignore their constitutional obligations. Here are 5 important points from the judgement to take note of:

  1. The Public Protector’s role as a S9 institution has been clarified, and the Constitutional Court emphasised that the Public Protector has an important role to play in strengthening our democracy and fighting against corruption. Her powers must be exercised without any fear or favor and cannot be diluted or undermined.
  2. As the first citizen, the President has sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, and to promote national unity, maintain peace and stability.  Two years ago, the Public Protector found that the President and his family unduly benefited from the upgrades at his homestead.  The court confirmed  that by failing to comply with the Public Protector’s report and favoring Ministerial reports absolving him of any liability, the President disobeyed the Constitution and acted inconsistent with his sworn duties.
  3. The Court found that the remedial steps outlined by the Public Protector are binding on the President, and not in any way optional. The President had to take reasonable steps to determine the amount to be reimbursed for features that are not security related (e.g. the swimmingpool, chickenrun, tuckshop etc).
  4. Parliament is the voice of the voiceless, watchdog of state resources and has a duty to enforce financial discipline. The National Assembly is only entitled to scrutinise the Public Protector’s findings before holding the President/Executive accountable, but had no right to absolve the President of liability. Parliament breached the Constitution. Only a court of law could determine otherwise.
  5. The Court ordered that the National Treasury determine the reasonable cost of the work done at the President’s Nkandla Homestead which do not relate to security measures. The President must now pay back the costs out of his own pocket and must also contribute to the costs of the court case, along with the Minister of Police and the National Assembly.
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