A public law expert says that President Jacob Zuma’s offer to the Constitutional Court to pay back some of the money he owes for his Nkandla homestead as part of a settlement is of little legal consequence – but the political stakes are huge.
According to senior lecturer of public law from the University of Cape Town, Cathy Powell, while monetary settlements in court battles is nothing new – the particular matter before the Concourt in relation to Nkandla is not even about the money.
Powell told Talk Radio 702 that the Concourt has to make a decision that relates more to the powers of the Public Protector – and not the specifics of a report on Nkandla.
“The court has before it, a legal question: what must Parliament and the minister of police and the president himself do with a recommendation from the public protector? That’s the question it has to decide,” Powell said.
“And the president is, in effect, saying ‘look, don’t decide on that, because I will hand over R10.5 million’. I can’t see the court even entertaining what is, in effect, a request for it not to hear a case.”
“Legally speaking, this is an extraordinarily ill-considered move,” Powell said.
According to Powell, this is the latest attempt by Zuma to misrepresent the Public Protector’s report for his own agenda.
Politically, it seems as if Zuma has made an admission of guilt, putting him on the back foot; however, legally, the move from Zuma carries zero consequence. “The court case will go on,” she said.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga told Talk 702 that Zuma has become more vulnerable, admitting guilt and exposing the ANC and Parliament.
“(Zuma) is running out of options,” Mathekga said. “There are serious concerns about whether the president respects the laws of the land.”