S. Africa ruling party sues opposition over SMS

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party on Thursday launched an urgent court application to stop the opposition Democratic Alliance Party (DA) from sending SMS messages to the public claiming that President Jacob Zuma had stolen public funds to upgrade his rural home in Nkandla.

"This court application follows a letter of demand that was submitted to the DA on the 24th March 2014 wherein we demanded the DA to retract and apologies for the false and vindictive text messages and to recommit themselves to the spirit and the letter of the Electoral Act and its Code of Conduct," ANC National Spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.

"They [DA] have arrogantly refused to retract and apologize," he added.

In SMS messages sent out last week, the opposition party said a recent report by the country's anti-corruption czar "shows how Zuma stole your money to build his R246 million home."

The text messages asked South Africans to vote for the DA on 7 May "to beat corruption."

Launching an urgent application with the South Gauteng High Court, the ruling ANC accused the opposition party of violating the Electoral Act and Electoral Code of Conduct, which prohibit campaigning based on false information.

"In terms of the Electoral Act and the Electoral Code of Conduct no person or organization is allowed to publish false information in order to influence the conduct or outcome of the elections," Mthembu wrote.

He accused the DA of propagating false accusations to influence voters to perceive the ruling party negatively and to distort public discourse.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has recently blamed Zuma for using massive public funds to renovate his country house.

The upgrade of Zuma's rural home in the town ofNkandla in the Kwazulu Natala province was supposed to have cost the state some $2.5 million.

But with lavish upgrades – including a swimming pool, cattle kraal and visitor's center – the total cost skyrocketed to some $23 million.

Madonsela, who launched her investigation in 2012 following complaints by the public, ordered the president to repay the money spent on unnecessary upgrades of his country home.

Zuma, who served as deputy president between 1999 and 2005, was elected president in 2009. In the past, he has faced charges of rape and corruption.

-Defiant-

The DA, South Africa's main opposition party, remained defiant.

"We are looking forward to defending our right to hold the President to account for improperly benefiting from the use of millions of rands in public money on his private residence," James Selfe, the chairperson of the party's federal council, said in a statement.

He said the DA intends to oppose the court application since they believe the comment issued in the SMS was fair within the context of the many damning findings of Madonsela's report.

"The full basis of our legal defense will only be disclosed once it has been finalized by our legal team," added Selfe.

South Africans will go to the polls on May 7 to elect a president, parliamentary deputies and city council representatives.

Twenty-nine political parties are expected to contest the polls.

The race will likely be led by five parties, including Zuma's ANC, the DA, the recently-established Economic Freedom Fighters, the Congress of the People, and the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency