Parliament failed to hold president accountable for Nkandla, Constitutional Court finds

Parliament failed to hold president accountable for Nkandla, Constitutional Court finds

The National Assembly and President Jacob Zuma have suffered another defeat in the apex court.

ANC leader Baleka Mbete
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Parliament has been ordered to develop rules for impeachment proceedings against a president and institute process – under the new rules – by winter 2018.


A majority judgement by the Constitutional Court has found that the National Assembly failed to hold President Jacob Zuma accountable for the Nkandla debacle in terms of the Constitution.


The court handed down four judgements in an application brought by a group of opposition parties lead by the EFF. The majority judgement was supported by seven justices.


“The failure by the National Assembly to make rules regulating removal of a president in terms of Section 89(1) of the Constitution constitutes a violation of this section (237),” states the order.


Justice Chris Jafta, who read out the judgement, further ordered the National Assembly to make rules for the removal of a president.


The judgement rejects arguments that the National Assembly’s current rules accommodate a section 89 process.


Section 89(1) of the Constitution states the president can only be removed from office on the grounds of “(a) a serious violation of the Constitution or the law; (b) serious misconduct; or (c) inability to perform the functions of office.”


It further found, given the absence of rules to govern a section 89 process, the National Assembly failed in its own constitutional obligation to properly determine whether Zuma violated section 89(1) of the Constitution.


Responding to the judgement, the EFF’s Secretary General Godrich Gardee says the party looks forward to develop the necessary rules and hold the president accountable.


“The constitutional delinquent Mr Zuma in no time would be scrutinised, will be brought before parliament to be accountable,” says Gardee adding, the president has to appear before parliament and provide evidence on the Nkandla matter.


Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota says the court has now twice found the National Assembly violated its oath of office.


“They should have developed the procedure… to enable us to hold the president accountable,” says Lekota.


The ANC meanwhile says it will first study the judgement before deciding on the way forward when its National Executive Committee meets next month. 

Differing views


The judgement was not unanimous.


Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng handed down his own judgement and described the majority judgement as “a textbook case of judicial overreach”.


Mogoeng ruled the judgement is “a constitutionally impermissable intrusion by the judiciary into the exclusive domain of parliament”.


He further questioned why there should be a fact-finding process where the president is given an opportunity to provide evidence when the court itself already found that Zuma violated the constitution. 


Gardee expressed his concern over Mogoeng’s view and described it as an abuse of power.


Deputy Chief Justice Ray Zondo further found parliament had done enough to hold the president accountable, referring to question and answer sessions in the National Assembly and motions of no confidence brought against the president.


Parliament has been given four months to formulate the rules, while the National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and President Jacob Zuma have been ordered to pay the legal costs.

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