Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng grilled the EFF’s legal counsel on the need for a Parliamentary investigation into Nkandla, when the Constitutional Court and the public protector had already pronounced on the matter.

It was also disclosed that National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete had conceded, in an affidavit on Monday, that it was within her power to set up a multiparty Parliamentary committee to look into the Nkandla matter.

The EFF, the UDM, the Congress of the People (COPE) and the DA have approached the court for an order compelling Parliament to order an investigation into President Jacob Zuma’s conduct over the Nkandla matter, with a view to determining whether his conduct warranted an impeachment.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi for the EFF argued that there had not been scrutiny of Zuma’s conduct by Parliament, despite prima facie evidence of misconduct on his part.

He argued that the National Assembly and Mbete as its head, had a responsibility to hold the executive to account.

Justice Chris Jafta asked whether it was not the responsibility of any member of the National Assembly to initiate the process, including the opposition parties who brought the matter to court. He said the National Assembly could only act through its members.

But Ngcukaitobi argued that Mbete had rejected the EFF’S proposal for such a process.

Mogoeng asked what should be made of the President’s failing to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution, as stated by the Constitutional Court said in its judgment.

"Does it say that he violated the Constitution in a serious way? So what is there to investigate? Are you going to investigate whether that conclusion by the Constitutional Court is a serious violation or a minimal violation?" Mogoeng asked.

Ngcukaitobi replied that an inquiry should be held for the President to explain himself. He said the finding of seriousness by the court did not displace the obligation by the National Assembly and that it should still exercise its Constitutional function.

"We want an investigation on what he says for himself and want to know whether he lied to Parliament," Ngcukaitobi said.

The opposition parties have argued in court papers that the speaker failed to put in place appropriate processes and mechanisms to hold the President accountable following his failure to implement the public protector’s report of March 19 2014.

The parties argue that Mbete’s failure violated the Constitution. They are seeking an order to compel Parliament to conduct an investigation into Zuma’s conduct to determine whether his offences warrant initiating impeachment processes against him.

The DA was admitted as an intervening party in the matter in August, and Corruption Watch has been admitted as a "friend of the court" (amicus curiae).

Opposition parties have based their arguments on the Constitutional Court’s judgment in the Nkandla matter handed down in March 2016, which compelled Zuma to pay back the money spent on his Nkandla homestead that was found to have unduly benefited him and his family.

Mbete is opposing the application, and denies that Parliament has failed to hold the President accountable. She refers to various motions of no-confidence that have been brought by the opposition parties in the National Assembly, which failed.

She says these, as well as question-and-answer sessions involving the President, demonstrate that the National Assembly has taken measures to hold him accountable.

The hearing continued after a short break at midday on Tuesday, with advocate Dali Mpofu acting for the UDM and COPE facing the full bench of the court.

Please sign in or register to comment.