Many South Africans have been fixated with the idea that a Constitutional Court decision on the Nkandla case might lead to President Jacob Zuma being impeached.
On Thursday, the Constitutional Court will hand down its verdict on whether or not Zuma breached his oath of office in the Nkandla matter, and it will also provide clarification on whether or not the decisions of the Public Protector are binding.
As important as Thursday’s decision is, anaylysts say the case will have little impact on Zuma’s presidency, and will not lead to his impeachment.
Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi says it is highly unlikely that the Constitutional Court will instruct parliament to impeach Zuma.
“If you speak to legal people, they will tell you two things. First of all, the court cannot decide on things that were not put to it. And secondly, when it comes to the question of the breach of the oath of the office, we need to distinguish whether there was a breach and whether the breach was deliberate.
“My own suspicion is that even if the court finds that there was a breach, it would not find that it was deliberate. If you go back to the Public Protector’s report, for instance, there’s a question of whether President Zuma misled parliament deliberately, and Thuli Madonsela’s conclusion was that it was not deliberate,” he says.
He continues that the issue of impeachment is also highly unlikely to be on the court’s agenda.
“What the court will probably pronounce is a question of whether or not parliament acted properly when it conducted its own investigation, and of course the issue of the powers of the Public Protector, over which the President has already made a concession,” he says.
While such a finding will give opposition parties more ammunition with which to slam the ANC and will futher dent President Zuma’s already damaged reputation, it will not affect his political stature within the ANC.
“In my view it’s highly unlikely that the President will be undermined by one single matter or factor on its own. If he is undermined it will by an accumulation of factors. So therefore, the reinforcement of the perception that President Zuma is scandal-prone and a perception within the ANC that he is a liability to the party is what will undermine him,” he says.
The people in the ANC are not protecting the ANC; they are protecting themselves
He adds that as long as Zuma’s approval ratings are high within the ANC, the ratings in the public domain do not really matter.
“So yes, the Nkandla judgment will probably undermine him further in the court of public opinion, and will reinforce the perception that he is bad news. But I don’t think this will affect his approval rating within the party.
“What may change, however, is if the ANC bleeds badly during the local elections. In that case a situation will arise in which individuals who hold high positions in government will look at their own interests versus those of the President. If they reach the point where they feel that their interests and those of the President are in conflict, that is when his position will be compromised,” he says.
Matshiqi concludes that the widely held perception that the ANC is protecting Zuma and the party itself could not be further from the truth.
“The people in the ANC are not protecting the ANC; they are protecting themselves. They are not being soft on the President; they are being soft on themselves. The moment they believe that President Zuma is a threat, his position will be seriously undermined.”