Constitutional Court File picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's violation of the Constitution was a "serious" matter and Parliament had taken necessary steps to hold him accountable, counsel for National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete, told the Constitutional Court on Tuesday. 

Advocate Ngoako Maenetje for Mbete, not only conceded that Zuma had violated the Constitution, but agreed that the Speaker can initiate impeachment processes against Zuma.

"As a lawyer for National Assembly, we accept this is serious violation of the Constitution," Maenetje said.

"The Speaker does not set up ad hoc committees. It is responsibility of National Assembly. She doesn't have powers to. Because [the] Speaker plays a referee role, it would be inconsistent for her to initiate the removal of the president."

However, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng corrected him saying: "It can't be that [the] Speaker cannot initiate impeachment process". To which Maenetje conceded.

Maenetje was representing Mbete in a matter brought to court by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) seeking a declaratory order to direct Parliament to consider Zuma’s conduct and whether he is impeachable following the court’s ruling that he had broken his oath of office and the the country’s Constitution.

In March last year, the Constitutional Court delivered a damning ruling in which it stated that Zuma had failed to “uphold, defend and respect the Constitution” when he did not adhere to the remedial actions called for by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela after more than R200 million of public money was spent in upgrading his Nkandla homestead.

On Tuesday, Maenetje argued that various steps were taken to hold Zuma to account for his violation of the Constitution after the Nkandla judgement, adding that the Constitution does not say that if the president is not impeached that no steps had been taken to hold him accountable.

Earlier in the day, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, for the EFF, told the Constitutional Court that Mbete had failed in her duty by rejecting a fact-finding inquiry to be chaired by a judge called on by the EFF or a multi-party committee to probe Zuma’s conduct.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, for the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and the Congress of the People (Cope), said Zuma’s violation of the Constitution and his breach of the oath of office was not bona fide.

The opposition parties want Zuma hauled before a “fact-finding inquiry” which would determine if his violation of the Constitution was an honest mistake or a deliberate deed.