The highest court in the land will today give judgment on whether Parliament should start an impeachment process to hold President Jacob Zuma accountable for violating the Constitution when using taxpayer’s money to upgrade his Nkandla home.
Here are five things you need to know:
The Constitutional Court is not ruling that Zuma should or should not be impeached.
It has been asked by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)‚ United Democratic Movement (UDM) and the Congress of the People (Cope) to rule that Parliament should start an impeachment process because Zuma violated the Constitution‚ which would include a hearing to hold him accountable for whether he lied about Nkandla upgrades to his home.
If the court rules that the National Assembly should start an impeachment process under Section 89 of the Constitution‚ it would still require a two thirds vote to impeach Zuma for him to leave office.
Here is what Section 89 says about removing Zuma:
1. The National Assembly‚ by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of at least two-thirds of its members‚ may remove the president from office only on the grounds of:
* A serious violation of the Constitution or the law;
* Serious misconduct; or
* Inability to perform the functions of office.
Anyone who has been removed from the office of President in terms of subsection (1) (a) or (b) may not receive any benefits of that office‚ and may not serve in any public office.
During the September hearing‚ the court emphasised the issue of the separation of powers – the doctrine that courts cannot tell Parliament what to do. South Africa is a constitutional democracy in which the three arms of government – the courts (judiciary)‚ Parliament (legislature) and the executive (the president and government ministers) are separate and independent.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng frequently put questions to EFF advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi about whether the party was asking the Constitutional Court to overstep its powers.
The EFF tried to argue it was not asking court to overstep its powers and tell parliament what to do‚ but merely explain to Parliament its powers on how to hold the president accountable for breaching the Constitution. It argued that the speaker of the National Assembly had not held Zuma to account for his involvement in Nkandla.
EFF court papers said: “They seek only a finding that the National Assembly must establish a process through‚ which full facts can be laid on the table‚ the president presents his version of events and the national assembly exercises its duty of holding him accountable.”
The EFF‚ UDM and Cope argued that the speaker‚ Baleka Mbete‚ had not done enough to hold Zuma accountable.
Mbete’s advocate Hamilton Maenetje admitted in court that the speaker could have done more. However‚ he argued that the court didn’t need to step in and the 27 Nkandla question and answer sessions‚ as well as the votes of no confidence in Zuma‚ had been ways Parliament had held Zuma to account.