Advocate Wim Trengove, appearing for the Economic Freedom Fighters, contended in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday that President Jacob Zuma had flagrantly defied the Public Protector’s report on his Nkandla home to hold on to ill-gotten gains in the form of upgrades that were not necessary to secure the property.
“He defied her in order to protect his ill-gotten gains… he defied her in order to hold on to wealth he improperly obtained,” Trengove told a full bench of the court.
He argued that Zuma had therefore failed in his duty to uphold the Constitution, and furthermore failed to live up to the ethical duties the supreme law places on his office.
Referring to “Secure in Comfort”, the report on the R216 million project Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released in 2014, Trengove said she had left no doubt in her findings that certain luxuries were added to the property in violation of the law.
The president had therefore been wrong to designate the Minister of Police to determine whether these were admissible and whether or not he needed to reimburse the state.
Zuma also made a clear mistake when he noted, in correspondence to Parliament, that he did not consider Madonsela’s directives to be binding.
Trengove noted that at some point last year, Zuma appeared to have a change of heart, reflected in his written submission to court, and accepted that in fact the chapter nine’s remedial actions had binding power. It followed after Corruption Watch submitted heads of argument to the court, in which it advanced this position.
“Corruption Watch may have persuaded the president that he was wrong,” he added.
Turning to the actions of a special ad hoc committee and the National Assembly who last year respectively drafted and rubber-stamped a report by the police minister which found that Zuma did not owe the state a cent as all the luxuries added to Nkandla were vital for security, Trengove said this too was unlawful.
“The ad hoc committee allocated itself the power to sit in judgment of the Public Protector,” he said.
“All of that is unlawful, they did not do what they had to do, which is hold the president to account.”
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng asked the advocate whether he was arguing that MPs had done this deliberately to protect Zuma or had simply misunderstood the law.
Trengove responded: “Let me say that some of us have our suspicions about that.”
However, he said, for the sake of argument he would assume that it was a bona fide mistake in law.[Source: iol]