In a statement issued by the Presidency late on Tuesday night President Jacob Zuma has proposed to pay back an amount to be determined by the Auditor-General and the minister of finance for any benefit he derived from the upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.
This statement came a week before the Constitutional Court is set to hear applications by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Democratic Alliance (DA) to declare Zuma’s actions to implement remedial action proposed by the Public Protector, unconstitutional.
The applicants argue that Zuma failed to implement the Public Protector’s remedial action. Government argues that Zuma has taken action, but that these steps were not those proposed by the Public Protector.
This follows an inter-ministerial committee publishing its own report, absolving Zuma from any repayment.
The court hearing, which would test the constitutionality of the steps he has taken, starts on February 9, and is scheduled two days before Zuma’s State of the Nation Address (Sona). The EFF has vowed to disrupt the important speech in Parliament until Zuma has “paid back the money”.
According to Tuesday’s statement, Zuma submitted his proposal in a letter sent to the Registrar of the Constitutional Court on Tuesday morning. It contained a draft order for the consideration of the court.
The president’s proposal was contained in his answering affidavit in November last year, but neither the EFF nor the DA responded to it, according to the statement. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has been joined in the proceedings as an interested party. She is also said to have not responded to Zuma’s proposal made in November.
The Presidency stated that Zuma “remains critical of a number of factual aspects and legal conclusions in the report”. He however “supports the need for finality in the matter of the Public Protector’s report”.
The report, issued on March 19 2014, identified irregularities during the R250 million upgrade, which was overseen by the Department of Public Works. “How those irregularities happened continue to be investigated in separate inquiries relating to officials and professional consultants on the project,” the Presidency stated.
After visits to Nkandla by a Parliamentary delegation and media last year, it became clear that the State did not get the value for its R250 million expenditure and service providers may have overcharged by a huge margin.
In its statement, the Presidency pointed out that Madonsela had found no wrongdoing by Zuma and found that he did not benefit from all but five features at his private homestead.
The five features are the visitors’ centre, amphitheatre, cattle kraal, chicken run and swimming pool.
Madonsela did not state the amount he had to pay back, but set out a process during which National Treasury and the South African Police Service (SAPS) would determine firstly, a reasonable proportion of each of the five features for which Zuma should compensate the State. Secondly they would have to determine the reasonable cost in that regard.
The Presidency stated that Zuma “has maintained his willingness to contribute to any increase in value to his property, objectively determined, as required by the Public Protector.”
According to the statement one of the other parties objects against the involvement of the SAPS and therefore he proposes that the Auditor-General and the Minister of Finance be requested by the court to determine the amount he has to pay back.
In its statement the Presidency points out that Zuma believes, and points out in his affidavit filed in court that “the DA and EFF have misrepresented and/or are manipulating the Public Protector’s report for the purposes of political expediency.”
Twitter reacted to the news:
JZ knows very well that he is heading for a huge political beating in the Const Court. Proposed solution is an attempt to avoid d inevitable
— Zwelinzima Vavi (@Zwelinzima1) February 2, 2016
JZ had an opportunity to implement the PP remedial action but assured of the unwavering ANC MPs support, he chose to laugh at PP & SAfrica
— Zwelinzima Vavi (@Zwelinzima1) February 2, 2016
— Justice Malala (@justicemalala) February 2, 2016
We don't live in the Republic of Impunity. Two months: two big climb-downs on FinMin and now on #PayBackTheMoney. The system works. Mostly.
— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) February 2, 2016
Any settlement should reaffirm the powers of the public protector,we should all agree first that remedial actions of the PP are binding…
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) February 2, 2016
President Zuma is simply trying to preempt a court ruling he might regret by appearing contrite so late in the day (pun intended). #nkandla
— Eusebius McKaiser (@Eusebius) February 2, 2016
We fought for the remedial actions to be upheld in the WC high court, the ScA & won. we were going to win at the ConCourt. Thus Pres UTurn
— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) February 2, 2016
Surely any payment now is an admission of guilt? Will pres. Zuma also repay all the legal costs run up to date defending #nkandla ?
— James Styan (@jamesstyan) February 2, 2016