S’Africa’s court orders Zuma to reimburse state
• Judges give 105-day ultimatum
• ‘Nigerian courts should act with courage’
South African Constitutional Court yesterday ruled that President Jacob Zuma failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution when he ignored the instructions of an anti-corruption watchdog to repay some of $16 million spent on his private home.
According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the unanimous ruling by the 11 judges, sitting in Johannesburg gave Zuma 105 days to repay the “reasonable cost” of non-security-related upgrade to his sprawling rural residence at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.
Meanwhile, an Abuja-based constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Sebastine Hon yesterday reacted to the South African Constitutional Court’s indictment of President Zuma saying, the orders made for Zuma to return misappropriated funds were an important milestone in the annals of the political history of Africa.
He, however, said that with respect to Nigeria, ‘‘this development will only teach us a moral lesson, given our constitutional difference with South Africa.’’
According to him, even though South Africa is also a federal republic just like Nigeria, the former has adopted the parliamentary system of government while the latter has adopted the presidential system.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng described the uncompromising nature of the judgment as a “profound lesson” for South Africa’s young democracy.
Opposition leader, Mmusi Maimane, has told reporters that Zuma should be removed from office. He insisted that he would table a parliamentary motion to have him impeached.
The ruling by the Constitutional Court was the latest twist in a six-year saga that has damaged Zuma politically, an official said on condition of anonymity. According to him, the verdict was also a vindication of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, a constitutionally mandated anti-graft watchdog.
Zuma, a 73-year-old Zulu traditionalist, has been under fire since December when his abrupt sacking of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene sent the rand into a tail-spin.
Hon continued: “More importantly, while section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution has imbued the holders of the offices of president, vice-president, governor and deputy governor with immunity against civil and criminal prosecution, there is no such provision in the Constitution of South Africa. Thus, as the highest court on constitutional issues, the Constitutional Court of South Africa correctly exercised its jurisdiction, vested on it by section 167(5) of the Constitution, which empowers it, amongst other things, to ‘make the final decision whether an Act of Parliament, a provincial Act or the conduct of the President is constitutional.’
“One other important lesson is that the Constitutional Court of South Africa, aware of its constitutional powers, acted without fear or favour; hence Nigerian Courts should follow suit.
“Justice should always be not only done but seen to be done, both to the high and mighty and to the downtrodden. But as stated above, no Nigerian court has power to make similar orders against the person of the president because of the embargo placed on their jurisdiction by section 308 of the Constitution”, he added.