DA SMS ruling no victory for opposition: ANC

Johannesburg, 19 January 2015 – ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa says that even though the Constitutional Court ruled that the DA’s controversial election SMS was legal, the SMS did little damage to the ANC’s image. Video: eNCA
The DA's SMS, sent to around 1.5 million voters in Gauteng read: "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". Photo: eNCA

PRETORIA - A Constitutional Court ruling on a DA SMS, claiming President Jacob Zuma "stole" money, was not a victory for the opposition, the ANC said on Monday.

The highest court on Monday upheld an appeal by the Democratic Alliance against an Electoral Court ruling that the DA could not publish the text message.

African National Congress spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the judgment in fact vindicated the ruling party in its view that the DA had falsely presented its opinion on Public Protector Thuli Madonsela'a Nkandla report as fact.

"It is regrettable that in spite of the ruling, which supports our view, the DA continues to play politics, hailing this as a victory when the Constitutional Court has been clear that the DA presented their opinions as fact on such an important matter," he said.

The DA's SMS, sent to around 1.5 million voters in Gauteng read: "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".

Kodwa said: "It is not true that President Zuma stole taxpayers' money to build his homestead in Nkandla -- a point made by the successive reports of competent authorities, including the Public Protector".

While the party accepted the ruling, it still held the text of the DA's SMS to be "an outright attack on our democracy", because it disguised misleading information as fair comment with the intention of influencing voters.

"It is incumbent upon all of us as South Africans, as part of strengthening our maturing democracy and in the contestation of ideas, we ensure that the opinions of others do not get presented as factual information in order to gain baseless advantage as has been done in this instance," Kodwa said.

Earlier, DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane, who was in court on Monday, welcomed the ruling and reiterated the party's call for Zuma to be held accountable for spending on upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.

"I think Zuma unduly benefited," he said.

"One man has a multi-million rand house... To me, money was stolen from the people..."



He said the ANC showed little regard for the language it used to describe its adversaries, for example calling the DA "racists", but when Zuma was criticised the "ANC wants to come to court".

The DA took to Twitter to celebrate the Constitutional Court judgment, with DA_News tweeting a photo of the SMS with the line "#ICYMI ["In case you missed it] here is the famous #NkandlaSMS ".



This was retweeted by party leader Helen Zille, as was a tweet by DA MP Gavin Davis: "BREAKING: ConCourt says DA's SMS that Zuma stole money to build Nkandla is fair comment. Viva Freedom of Speech!".



A few days after the SMS was initially sent, the ANC demanded its retraction and, when the DA did not comply, took the matter to the High Court in Johannesburg.

The High Court found the SMS amounted to "fair comment" and the ANC's application was dismissed.

The ANC successfully appealed to the Electoral Court, which found the SMS did not satisfy the definitions of "fair comment" and presented itself as a statement of fact.

It was this ruling that the Constitutional Court has now set aside.

The Constitutional Court judges wrote three different judgments, with seven judges agreeing that the Electoral Court order be set aside -- but their reasons for the ruling differed.

Another three judges -- Raymond Zondo, Chris Jafta and Monica Leeuw --said they would have dismissed the appeal.

* For more on this story, watch the video in the gallery above.


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