Do not pull Public Protector's teeth for Zuma‚ Constitutional Court asked
The Constitutional Court heard arguments from two political parties and an anti-corruption organisation on why they believed the Public Protector had powers to take remedial action that was binding.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) argued in the morning that President Jacob Zuma‚ as president‚ had a heightened duty to protect the Constitution. It also argued that Zuma defied the Public Protector in order to protect his ill-gotten gains.
The court was hearing applications by the EFF and the Democratic Alliance (DA) for the court to declare that Zuma and the National Assembly had failed to comply with their constitutional obligation to adhere to remedial action prescribed by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela after she found that Zuma had unduly benefited from certain upgrades to his private family residence in Nkandla.
The Democratic Alliance’s advocate Anton Katz SC said there was defiance against the Public Protector’s findings on the part of the president‚ the National Assembly and the Minister of Police.
“This case goes far deeper than the question of the powers of the Public Protector. It goes to the systemic failure of the government and the National Assembly‚” Katz said.
Counsel for the Public Protector Gilbert Marcus SC reiterated the argument that the Public Protector’s remedial action was binding and enforceable unless set aside on review by a court of law.
“The Public Protector is vested with the power to cure or correct the improper conduct she has investigated‚” Marcus said.
He said to hold that the Public Protector’s remedial action was not enforceable‚ would render the institution toothless.
Marcus also said Zuma had erred in law. Marcus described a letter Zuma sent to the Speaker of the National Assembly in August 2014 in which the president said he deemed it appropriate for the minister of police to determine whether the president was liable for any contributions and report to the Cabinet.
“That clearly contradicted the Public Protector’s remedial action. This is an error of law‚” Marcus said.
Corruption Watch supported the position adopted by the Public Protector that her prescribed remedial action had legal effect until set aside.
Lawyers for the president‚ the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Minister of Police were to address the court on Tuesday afternoon.