While it can be argued by all and sundry especially in the ANC that the timing of the Nkandla report which was released last month by the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela was tailored to coincide with the upcoming elections, this was vehemently denied by Madonsela’s office. However, there may be some truth in the ruling party’s claim. This is what seems to be emerging after the opportunism that has been shown by the opposition in the aftermath of the report. To some extent, the ruling ANC seems to have received a measure of relief after the high court on Saturday ruled that they had the right to appeal the ruling that the DA was within its rights in sending an SMS to the public in which it intimated that Jacob Zuma had stolen public funds.
Immediately after the release of the report, the DA sent an SMS to more than one and half million South Africans in which it said, ‘The Nkandla report shows how Zuma stole your money to build his R246m home. Vote DA on 7 May to beat corruption. Together for change.’ The ANC screamed blue murder and went to court in an attempt to force a retraction from the opposition party. The judge who presided over the case, rule that the SMS constituted ‘fair comment’ and the SMS was allowed to stand. Understandably not happy, the ANC sought audience with the High court in Johannesburg and was on Saturday granted leave to appeal. This ruling means the judge felt that if they appeal the earlier ruling, there were chances that they could be successful.
Commenting on the latest ruling, the spokesperson for the ruling party, Jackson Mthembu said that this ruling was in the interest of upholding the integrity of the electoral process in the country and in the general interest of the country. He added that the earlier judgement which had been in favour of the DA was consequently suspended until the Electoral Court had made its ruling on the matter. He further implored the opposition political parties to respect the rule of law and campaign on the basis of their sound policies if they had any and stop spreading falsehoods with the aim of influencing the outcome of the general elections in contravention of the Electoral Code and Electoral Act.
In response to the ruling, the DA spokesperson and its premier candidate for Gauteng, Mmusi Maimane welcomed the ruling, saying that it gave his party the opportunity to tell another court that President Zuma had stolen the people’s money, adding that this was a sign that the ANC was still intent on fighting freedom of speech in this election, not only in this SMS case but also in the decision of the SABC to discontinue the flighting of the DA advert called ‘Ayisafani’.
The public broadcaster stopped the broadcasting of the opposition’s advert, saying the section where it refers to the police killing people was likely to cause violence against the police. This was contained in a letter to the DA by the SABC’s acting CEO, Tian Olivier. Also responding to the same letter but from a rally in Soweto, DA leader, Hellen Zille said those that had refused to air the advert were merely trying to protect their jobs and President Zuma who deployed them to their current jobs. She further stated that the reason given was ridiculous and that her party would be approaching the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), whose function it was to censor adverts. She added that they had not received any adverse communication from the media regulating body and did not believe that it was the place of the SABC to remove the advert.