Johannesburg - The DA will seek leave to appeal against the Electoral Court's ruling on Tuesday that an SMS sent to potential voters, stating that President Jacob Zuma stole public money to build his Nkandla home, was based on false information.
“The Democratic Alliance will seek leave for a Constitutional Court appeal to a truly bizarre judgment this evening by the Electoral Court in the Nkandla SMS matter,” the chairman of the party's federal executive, James Selfe, said in a statement.
The African National Congress had appealed against an earlier court ruling that the DA SMS was fair comment.
On the eve of Wednesday's general elections, the Electoral Court declared the DA SMS amounted to a publication of false information in contravention of the Electoral Commission Act and the Electoral Code of Conduct.
Selfe said: “We believe that the constitutional right to freedom of speech cannot be limited by legislation in an election period, as the Electoral Court claims in its judgment.”
The DA felt that the freedom of speech should be particularly protected during the election period.
“We still believe that a reasonable reader will agree that the Nkandla Report does indeed show that President Zuma stole your money for his R246 million homestead.”
He cited wording in Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's report into Nkandla, where she stated that Zuma had “unduly benefited” from the upgrades, and asked what this meant to a reasonable person.
“There remains no doubt in our minds that there are substantive grounds for the president to be impeached and indeed to answer to criminal charges for the Nkandla upgrades,” Selfe said.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu welcomed the ruling in a statement on Tuesday.
“This judgment is proof of the many lies that the DA tells about the ANC to the people of South Africa to mask that they have nothing to offer the electorate except for a consistent anti-ANC offensive not rooted in fact or reality.”
The judgment also vindicated the party's position that the Public Protector's report was instructive that Zuma had not used taxpayers' money to upgrade his home.
The ANC hoped that the DA would send out a court-ordered SMS, retracting its earlier SMS comment that Zuma “stole” funds to upgrade his Nkandla homestead, before voting began on Wednesday morning.
The court ordered the DA to send this retraction to 1.5 million potential voters who received its first SMS, at its own cost.
“We believe that this judgment vindicates not only the ANC but the principles by which all political parties must abide as they campaign during these national general elections and beyond,” Mthembu said.
The court held the SMS should state: “The DA retracts the SMS dispatched to you which falsely stated that President Zuma stole R246m to build his home. The SMS violated the Code and the Act.” - Sapa