The buck stops with President Jacob Zuma over the Nkandla controversy, lawyer Anton Katz SC told the Constitutional Court on behalf of the DA on Tuesday.
“Ultimately the buck stops with the president,” said Katz who followed the Economic Freedom Fighters’ lawyer Wim Trengove’s highly charged submissions that Zuma had violated the Constitution over the controversy.
“And the president takes responsibility for the conduct of state officials who blocked or attempted to block a constitutionally mandated body in this manner,” Katz told the judges in the highest court in the land.
“All government respondents in this case are liable for this kind of blockage,” he said.
Blame also fell on Parliament, he said, in reply to a question from the bench.
The DA is taking part in a massive court application, along with with the EFF, to clarify the powers of the public protector on the grounds of their belief that Zuma, some Cabinet ministers and the National Assembly had ignored the recommendations of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report Secure in Comfort.
“The National Assembly has a duty to consider the report of the public protector, and deal with it in a constitutionally proper manner, which they didn’t,” he said.
The application comes two days ahead of Zuma’s State of the Nation Address, where organisers are on tenterhooks after EFF MPs were thrown out last year for shouting “pay back the money” at Zuma.
Katz said the National Assembly had a duty to act on the Public Protector’s report. Instead, it had “rubber stamped a whitewash of the excess”.
He said the public protector required the SA Police Services to deal with the issue of how much Zuma should pay back, not Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko.
The money spent on former presidents PW Botha, FW de Klerk, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki for presidential housing indicated “something more modest” than the Nkandla expenditure of around R246m.
The DA could not see how Nhleko or the National Assembly could decide that Zuma didn’t need to pay back a cent.
“There has been an abuse of public resources on an extraordinary scale for the benefit of one family,” he said.
The respondents in the case are Zuma, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the public protector. Corruption Watch is a Friend of the Court.