In a zero-sum communication game, people tell those in power, such as President Jacob Zuma, what they think they want to hear, or what they think will make them laugh. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
In a zero-sum communication game, people tell those in power, such as President Jacob Zuma, what they think they want to hear, or what they think will make them laugh. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

THE Constitutional Court will hand down judgment in the Nkandla matter on Thursday, the court said on Tuesday.

The outcome will be significant as opposition parties are set to use a possible damning outcome to heighten calls for President Jacob Zuma’s removal from office, as the local government elections approach.

The judgment follows an application to the court by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), joined by the Democratic Alliance and others, to compel Mr Zuma to pay back money for security upgrades to his private residence, Nkandla.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said in her report into the security upgrades that Mr Zuma and his family had unduly benefited from the upgrades, and that he should pay back the money spent on these.

The court heard argument in the matter in February during which Mr Zuma admitted that Ms Madonsela’s report was binding, which he had in the past repeatedly denied.

The judgment also comes amid another furore around Mr Zuma’s relationship with the Gupta family. The African National Congress (ANC) has begun an investigation to determine the nature of their influence and reach into the corridors of state power, after confirmation by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas that members of the family offered him the position of finance minister before the axing of Nhlanhla Nene late last year.

The Gupta saga has led to some within the ANC calling for Mr Zuma’s removal, and a negative finding in the Nkandla matter is likely to intensify negative sentiment toward him from within the party.

In a single stroke, Mr Zuma’s concession in February wiped out the work of several official investigations and two parliamentary ad hoc committees that had exonerated him.

In the two years since Ms Madonsela released her findings on Nkandla, she has been vilified persistently — including an accusation that she was a US Central Intelligence Agency spy — by Deputy Defence Minister Kebby Maphatsoe. The president’s counsel, Jeremy Gauntlett SC, during the hearing sought to contain the potential political fallout resulting from the court case, saying the highest court should not be "inveigled" into giving orders that could be used by opposition parties to call for Mr Zuma’s impeachment.

The EFF took the case to the court, asking that the findings of the public protector — that Mr Zuma had until very recently strenuously resisted — be implemented. Counsel for the EFF, Wim Trengove SC, in February asked the court to order that Mr Zuma’s initial stance towards the public protector’s report be considered a violation of his duty to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution. He asked the court to declare Mr Zuma in breach of his oath of office.

The request by Mr Trengove for these declaratory orders sets the stage for the next phase in the EFF’s campaign to have Mr Zuma removed from office. EFF leader Julius Malema has said if the court declared Mr Zuma had breached his constitutional duties, the EFF would seek his impeachment in Parliament.

With Franny Rabkin