Court finds in DA favour over Nkandla SMS

Court finds in DA favour over Nkandla SMS

Mmusi Maimane, DA premier candidate for Gauteng. CC image courtesy of the Democratic Alliance on Flickr.

The High Court in Johannesburg has ruled an SMS sent by South African opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) to over 1.5 million Gauteng voters accusing president Jacob Zuma of stealing public money was “fair comment”.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party had gone to court in order to force the DA to retract the SMS, cease sending it and apologise, or face a fine, for breaching the Electoral Act and Code of Conduct ahead of next month’s elections with regard to the messages, which refer to a public protector report which found Zuma had unduly benefited from an upgrade to his Nkandla homestead and said it was a “licence to loot”.

The SMS read: “The Nkandla report shows how Zuma stole your money to build his R246m home. Vote DA on 7 May to beat corruption. Together for change.”

ANC lawyers said the public protector report had not said Zuma had stolen taxpayers’ money, though the DA argued it had not said the report explicitly said that but rather “showed” it.

Acting Judge Mike Hellens dismissed the ANC’s application with costs, finding the DA’s SMS was “fair comment” and saying the ANC had failed to properly argue its case because it did not table the contents of the Nkandla report.

In a statement, DA premier candidate for Gauteng Mmusi Maimane welcomed the court’s decision.

“This is both a victory for freedom of speech and for the truth about Nkandla,” he said.

“In reading extracts from the Nkandla report the judge offered the court an Oxford dictionary definition of the word “loot” arising from the public protector’s finding that the upgrade was a “licence to loot”.”

He said the judge had also disagreed with the ANC’s interpretation of electoral law because it conflicted with “freedom of expression” and the Bill of Rights.

“The ANC never tabled the Nkandla report in court because they can’t admit to what it says. The fact remains that any reasonable person can conclude that money was stolen to upgrade the president’s ZAR246 million (US$23.1 million) private homestead,” Maimane said.

Maimane repeated the DA’s call for Zuma to be impeached and for criminal charges of corruption to be carried out.

“From the start the ANC’s case has been based on fear of losing a close election in Gauteng. The fact that 1.6 million voters in Gauteng have now been communicated the truth about Nkandla has now been backed by a court of law,” he said.

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