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Wed Jun 01 01:50:36 CAT 2016

Zuma cannot be allowed to evade his day in court

The Times Editorial | 04 February, 2016 00:23

Even though President Jacob Zuma has woken up from his long slumber and suddenly realised that he should pay back (a portion of) the taxpayers' money used to upgrade his private home in Nkandla he cannot be allowed to evade having his day in court.

After years of denial, intimidation and outright bullying by Zuma and his protectors, South Africans cannot today be asked meekly to accept Zuma's statement that he is willing to settle the debt.

It cannot be - on the eve of a decision by our highest court on the matter, and with the State of the Nation speech due next week - that Zuma and those who told this nation that he was not obliged to pay back the money should escape challenge.

The police minister was emphatic in his defence of Zuma when he launched his investigation into Nkandla in parallel to that of the public protector.

Our constitutionally designated institutions have been undermined, intimidated and insulted, all in the name of factional politics.

When the public protector released her Nkandla report she was not only ignored and her powers questioned, she was bullied and personally insulted. Zuma was in the forefront of this abuse, telling the public protector that her reports were "mere recommendations".

So what has changed now, Mr President?

The years lost and resources wasted on the Nkandla scandal tell us that those we entrusted with the government of this country failed to protect our constitution. The powers of the public protector are clear and should not have been so self-servingly undermined.

Zuma, as head of state, should have been at the forefront of efforts to protect the constitution and the public protector.

Irrespective of whether Zuma pays up, the damage has been done.

We can now only hope that all those who defended the Nkandla corruption will begin to appreciate the importance of the constitution and that it cannot be abused to protect individual ambitions.

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