President Jacob Zuma's residence in Nkandla. Picture: SOWETAN/SUNDAY WORLD
TIGHT SPOT: The EFF is determined not to let President Jacob Zuma slip off its grip on the Nkandla matter. Picture: SOWETAN/SUNDAY WORLD

A COUNTER-proposal made to President Jacob Zuma on Thursday by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on paying back the money for Nkandla, has put Mr Zuma in a tight spot.

The EFF wants Mr Zuma to accept he has breached the Constitution and his oath of office.

The alternative proposal filed in court was in response to Mr Zuma’s climbdown on Tuesday to paying back the money.

If Mr Zuma were to agree to this order, it would be an unprecedented concession. If he does not, the cases before the Constitutional Court wanting findings of the Public Protector on Nkandla to be implemented, will go ahead next week.

The EFF’s response to Mr Zuma’s settlement offer to get finality, is to ask the president to accept what the government has hitherto fiercely contested: that organs of state are duty-bound in law to implement the "remedial action" directed by the public protector.

A fiery EFF leader Julius Malema said on Thursday: "This is not a case between Zuma and the EFF, this is a case to reaffirm the Constitution of the Republic of SA and to protect Chapter 9 institutions."

In the surprise settlement proposal made by the state attorney on behalf of Mr Zuma, the president accepted that some of the upgrades such as the swimming pool and visitors centre were not security-related, and signalled that he was willing to pay part of the R246m spent on upgrades.

He asked that the finance minister and auditor-general determine the amount.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela also responded to the proposal yesterday. In a letter addressed to all the parties and to the Constitutional Court, her attorney said Ms Madonsela appreciated Mr Zumas’s "partial acceptance of her remedial action and his endeavours to achieve a resolution".

Ms Madonsela agreed that, as suggested by the president, it would no longer be appropriate for the South African Police Service to participate in determining how much Mr Zuma should pay.

She said that if the court case went ahead, she would like to present arguments on the "nature and ambit of her powers and the legal effect of her remedial action".

The EFF was also content for the auditor-general to work, with a Treasury official to calculate the repayment sum.

But the EFF’s draft order also includes declarations about the status of the public protector: that her constitutional power to take remedial action "includes the power to issue directions binding on organs of state"; that her directions in the Secure In Comfort report "were and remain binding" on Mr Zuma; and that the president "failed to implement the directions in breach of his oath of office and his duties under the … Constitution".

State attorney Isaac Chowe, on behalf of the president, had asked for directions from the court — "regarding the future conduct of the matter". But the Constitutional Court declined, saying the settlement proposal was a matter for the parties to decide. It "calls for no directions from the court at this stage", said the court.

The court said it would "be appreciated" if the parties would inform the court by 4pm on Friday whether any agreement had been nudging them towards a speedy resolution, if there were to be one.

The EFF and the Democratic Alliance went to court, asking for it to order Mr Zuma to do as directed by Ms Madonsela — that he pay a percentage of the costs. They also wanted the court to settle the question on how organs of state should respond to the public protector’s findings.

The EFF said yesterday that when Mr Zuma approached the court directly with the settlement, instead of the parties involved, he was wrongly attempting to influence judges. "In his typical way of trying to control everything and influencing institutions of state, he took a copy of the settlement to court to influence the judges," he said. Referring to the Constitutional Court’s response, Mr Malema said the judiciary in SA had thus far "rejected the control of the ANC".

In her report, Ms Madonsela found that Mr Zuma and his family had accrued undue benefits from the installation of specific items during the security upgrades, including a swimming pool, a cattle kraal, a chicken run, a visitors’ centre and an amphitheatre.