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Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla report does not conclude, or show, that President Jacob Zuma stole R246 million to upgrade his palatial homestead, the ANC maintains in its battle against the DA’s controversial SMS.
The ANC is heading to the Electoral Court in Bloemfontein to force the DA to unreservedly retract and apologise for its SMS that was sent to nearly 1.6 million potential voters in Gauteng last month.
The ruling party says an apology or retraction would mitigate the harsher sanctions provided for in the Electoral Act which include forfeiture of the deposit paid by the DA to participate in the elections, barring it from using public media, holding political events, canvassing at any voting district, receiving funds or disqualifying the DA, among others.
In its application, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the prejudice it suffered far exceeded the fine of R200 000, and a formal warning or fine would not deter the DA or any future transgressors.
It wants the DA to send another SMS stating that the opposition party “falsely stated that Zuma stole R246m to build his home” and had “violated the electoral code”.
The ANC is demanding that the DA apologise for the “inconvenience caused and recommit to the letter and spirit of the Electoral Act and code”.
Last Saturday, Johannesburg High Court Acting Judge Mike Helens granted the ruling party leave to appeal his judgment, which found the DA’s SMS was “fair comment”.
According to papers filed at the Electoral Court, the ANC says Helens was wrong when he found that Madonsela’s phrase “licence to loot” was close to the word “stole” used in the DA’s SMS.
“Stole” is not a synonym for “loot”, according to the ruling party.
It also wants to interdict and restrain the DA from further disseminating and distributing the SMS, which it argues contains a false allegation, in contravention of the electoral code. The ANC says the DA is making a statement of fact, not opinion, on Zuma’s character and conduct.
It says the DA accusation that Zuma is guilty of theft is an attack on his character and conduct.
In response to the ANC’s high court application, DA federal executive chairman James Selfe says the SMS should be understood in the context of the hard-fought campaign in Gauteng, where he says the ANC is unlikely to get the 50 percent majority required to remain in power.
“Campaign language is robust and direct (in any) vibrant democracy.”
According to the DA, the language used by the media and other political parties against Zuma is often damning but neither he, nor the ANC, have taken action against either.