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Primate calls for “Tsunami of truth-telling” after SA President loses court battle

Posted on: March 31, 2016 3:47 PM
Photo Credit: Sayed Ridhwaan Mohamed

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has called for a “tsunami of truth-telling” after the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, lost a court battle brought by campaigners who alleged he benefitted from state funding of R246 million (South African Rand, approximately £11.65 million GBP) for improvements to his private home, Nkandla, under the guise of security.

South Africa’s constitutional court ruled today that South Africa’s Treasury “must determine the reasonable costs of those measures implemented . . . at the President’s Nkandla homestead that do not relate to security, namely the visitors’ centre, the amphitheatre, the cattle kraal, the chicken run and the swimming pool [and] must determine a reasonable percentage of the costs of those measures which ought to be paid personally by the President.”

The President has been ordered to repay the amount within 45 days of the court signifying that it accepts the figures.

The court also re-instated remedial action taken by the Public Protector against President Zuma, saying that it was binding. The President’s failure to comply with the remedial action and the South African Parliament’s decision to set it aside were both “inconsistent with the constitution,” the court said.

Responding to the judgment, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba spoke of a “new struggle” in South Africa. He told graduating students at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he was receiving an honorary degree, that there was “no one better equipped to fight the new struggle than those of you, students and teachers, who have been and continue to work to transform our education system.”

He continued: “At its best, the new struggle that we saw beginning on the campuses last year was a national mobilisation of young and old alike against the failures of leaders who are allowing endemic corruption, nepotism and greed to rob the people of South Africa of the fruits of their hard-won freedom, gained over many decades by the old struggle against apartheid.”

The new struggle would need “courage”, he said, adding: “If we learned anything from the courage of the students who said ‘enough is enough’, it is that we are able to create a society rooted in human love and in God’s care for us and all people everywhere.

During the last years of Madiba’s [Nelson Mandela] life, I spent a good deal of time with him. Through him I was constantly reminded that courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity to triumph over it. The brave woman or man is not the one who does not feel afraid, but the one who conquers their fear.

“We live in a society based on fear. Our members of Parliament are too scared to hold the executive properly to account. Those in the executive or in public service . . . who have allegedly been offered blandishments in return for business favours – have been too afraid to speak out about it.

“Thankfully, the courage of a few is breaking down the fear, hopefully unleashing a wave of truth-telling about corrupt influence-peddling, not only by one family but by other business interests too.

“And I hope that today’s Constitutional Court judgement finding that both President Zuma – in seeking to dodge the Public Protector’s findings on Nkandla – and Parliament – in seeking to protect the President – acted unlawfully, will give public servants and others new courage to speak out – and generate not just a wave but a tsunami of truth-telling.

“Today is a great day for constitutional democracy in South Africa.”

In a separate development, South Africa’s State Prosecutor has withdrawn charges against students involved in last year’s Fees Must Fall protest, saying that it was “not in the public interest” to continue. Archbishop Makgoba’s son, Nyakallo, was amongst a number of students arrested when they protested against prohibitively expensive rises in student fees.