President Jacob Zuma has (finally) apologised for the Nkandla affair, but said that he had never deliberately intended to subvert the constitution.
Zuma addressed the nation in a quickly arranged address on Friday night (which was only announced an hour before it was delivered), a day after the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma had failed to respect, uphold and defend the constitution; and that he had failed to defend the public protector when she had issued a ruling against him over Nkandla.
Democractic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said, in an immediate response, that the South African president’s speech was deeply embarrassing, and that Zuma has no understanding of the constitution or his office.
Zuma said the Nkandla matter had all happened in “good faith”, and that his approach to the Nkandla matter was one different legal approach.
Zuma said he he never knowingly or deliberately set out to contravene the constitution.
Many expected Zuma to resign. Immediately after the court’s ruling on Thursday, there had been a flurry of activity among politicians and the African National Congress. The Democratic Alliance immediately launched a petition to impeach Zuma. Opposition politicians were seen in scenes of jubilation after the decision by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
“We have a judiciary that is a trusted final arbiter in disputes,” Zuma said this evening, adding that he welcomed the judgement unreservedly. “It has further strengthened our constitution and democracy.
“This is a groundbreaking judgement with regard to the powers of the public protector. We should thank the court.”
He said he would respect the judgement and pay the money.
“It was never my intention not to comply with the remedial action recommended by the public protector.”
“The judgement has been very helpful.”
Zuma, who seemed to put quite a bit of blame on the Public Works department, said with hindsight many things should’ve been handled differently and that he “deeply regrets” the matter having been dragged on.
He said “I apologise on my behalf and on behalf of government”, added “let us use the judgement to lead and further strengthen our democracy” and then with an “I thank you” he left the podium. But not his position as president of the country.