South African opposition parties on Tuesday asked the country's top court to rule on whether President Jacob Zuma broke the law by spending 250 million rand (then $23 million) on a state-funded security upgrade to his home.
The constitutional court reserved judgement on whether it will hear a case to decide if a report from South Africa's anti-graft authority, accusing Zuma of misusing state funds, was legally binding.
The 2014 report from the public protector said that Zuma had personally benefited from some of the refurbishments to his country home in Nkandla, which included a cattle enclosure, swimming pool and amphitheatre.
Thuli Madonsela, South Africa’s Public Protector, issued a damning report - "Secure in Comfort" - with regards to the upgrades made on Zuma’s Nkandla residence citing the construction went beyond limits.
She recommended that Zuma should pay for the excesses, a suggestion 'he strongly dismissed, vilified and even joked about'.
Proceedings underway at the Constitutional Court today demonstrate that the issue is no longer a joking matter.
Zuma attempted to make concessions leading to the court hearing offering to pay for upgrades, something that did not make the situation better but rather confirmed that all along he had willingly defied the Public Protector and taken the country’s supreme laws ‘for granted’.
As a sign of defiance, President Zuma went on to commission another report by the Police Minister to challenge Madonsela’s findings.
If the country’s Constitutional Court rules that Zuma violated the constitution by not acting according to the recommendations of Madonsela’s report, this will set a precedence since the dawn of the democracy that a sitting president, supposed to be the custodian of the constitution, acted willingly contrary to the country's sacred laws for personal gain.
This day will not end without a bitter legal fight between warring parties as Zuma’s advocate Jeremy Gauntlett argues that Madonsela’s remedial action was not meant as an order.
Economic Freedom Fighters’ lawyer Wim Trengove and Democratic Alliance’s Anton Katz say Zuma should take responsibility for the conduct of his ministers who blocked or attempted to block the Public Protector.