Jacob Zuma will deliver his State of the Nation address on Thursday under a cloud, after the Constitutional Court was asked to find that he violated the Constitution and his oath of office.
The president was seen to be weaker politically than ever before following Tuesday’s Nkandla Constitutional Court matter.
“We can safely say he is much weaker than he was the day before he fired [Finance Minister Nhlanhla] Nene. There’s no doubt about it and yesterday did not help. That kind of public humiliation did not help,” political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said on Wednesday.
Judgment was reserved in the application by the Economic Freedom Fighters and Democratic Alliance to the Constitutional Court for an order that Zuma repay some of the R246m spent on his home in Nkandla.
In an about-turn last week, Zuma approached the Constitutional Court to ask that it order the Auditor General and finance minister to determine how much he owed for the non-security upgrades to Nkandla.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela however said only she could decide whether to change her recommendations, and, until this happened, Zuma had to abide by what she ordered.
Wim Trengove, for the EFF, told the court that Zuma violated the Constitution and his oath of office by ignoring Madonsela’s recommendations.
The president appeared to have thrown some Cabinet ministers and the National Assembly under the bus during the proceedings.
Jeremy Gauntlett, for Zuma, said the president accepted that the ministers involved in the controversy be reprimanded, and that this should be part of the court’s order.
Zuma’s personal interests come before the interests of the party
He would however reject an order stating that he had been defiant, because this could be used against him in impeachment proceedings.
Matshiqi said he was not surprised by this move.
“What he has done, after people acted in his defence on Nkandla, in the manner that they did, sacrificing their integrity and their sense of dignity… throwing them under the bus, in the way that he did, it’s very clear his personal interests come before the interests of the party,” Matshiqi said.
Last year, the EFF disrupted Zuma’s speech with chants of “pay back the money”. This year, the party had threatened to interject to demand that Zuma explain why he fired Nene.
Matshiqi said people were going to be disappointed by Zuma’s speech.
“He’s going to tell us how bad things are, especially in terms of the economy. He’s going to talk about the delivery record of his administration and how well he has done. But when it comes to solutions there are only two places to go.
“One, how to avoid another down grade to junk status, two, how do you ameliorate the conditions of those who sit in the constituency of the ANC who are poor and working class.”
Matshiqi said he expected the downgrade would come in December.
Zuma had to worry about big business’ expectations. It was not going to be impressed with “rhetorical commitments” of public-private partnership, he said.
“I think he’s going to be very thin on that. He’s also going to be very thin on the aspirations of the poor. It’s going to be a disappointing Sona. It’s one of those things I would like to be wrong about.”