All this is beside the point: the underlying and undeniable reality is that it is absolutely unacceptable in a constitutional democracy for the state to spend such a vast amount of public money on the private home of a political office bearer — under any circumstances. Whatever explanations the Minister might wish to proffer, there is simply no excuse for spending an amount of money on the President’s private comfort that could have been used to build some 2 400 homes to house at least 10 000 homeless people.

It is difficult to see how all this can be reconciled with the constitutional requirement for a system of government that is based on accountability, responsiveness and openness, or that promotes reasonable and efficient administration.

Surely, a key question must be the degree to which President Zuma will ultimately be personally enriched by the upgrades to his property – and whether this is not subject in law to the doctrine of unjust enrichment?

The manner in which the President dealt with Nkandla in Parliament earlier this week – his quibbling over the correct pronunciation of ‘Nkandla’ – and his undisguised amusement over the whole issue – was a sad reflection on his high office and on the respect that he has for Parliament and for the people of South Africa.

It is also a clear signal to those in public office that they have a licence to help themselves to public resources with relative impunity in circumstances where the police force and justice system are increasingly subject to pressure from powerful politicians.

Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation
28 May 2015

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