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Court orders Jacob Zuma to pay his own legal fees

13 December 2018 - 10:44 By KARYN MAUGHAN
Former president Jacob Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma.

Former president Jacob Zuma will no longer receive state funding for his corruption trial defence.

And the North Gauteng High Court has ordered the state attorney to “take all necessary steps, including the institution of civil proceedings” to recover all the taxpayers’ money already spent on these costs.

Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba on Thursday handed down a 45-page ruling on applications brought by the EFF, DA and other opposition parties to declare that the state was not liable for Zuma’s legal costs.

He ruled that Zuma “like all other accused persons in South Africa is thus entitled to be represented by a legal practitioner using his own resources, or those offered by the Legal Aid Board”.

The court also ordered Zuma to pay the opposition parties’ legal costs.

Speaking after the ruling, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the party would now consider challenging government’s funding of Zuma’s legal fees at the Zondo inquiry into state capture.

He heralded the ruling as setting a precedent that extended far beyond Zuma, and could be used to block state funding for other officials accused of corruption.

Zuma’s attorney Daniel Mantsha did not comment after the decision, but indicated it was likely that Zuma’s legal team would seek to challenge the ruling.

The former president’s lawyers are expected to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal to challenge an estimated personal costs order granted against Zuma in his fruitless challenges to then public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report.

Zuma’s lawyers were adamant that he was entitled to state funding of his corruption trial defence – because he allegedly used his powerful position in government to commit the crimes he was accused of.

Zuma is facing charges in relation to his relationship with his former financial advisor Schabir Shaik, who was convicted of keeping Zuma – then deputy president of the ANC and later deputy president of South Africa – on a corrupt retainer. In exchange for multiple payments, Zuma allegedly used his power and position to further Shaik’s interests.

He also stands accused of accepting a R500,000 a year bribe, facilitated by Shaik, from Thint, the South African subsidiary of French arms company Thales – in exchange for his protection of the company from an investigation into the country’s multi-billion rand arms deal.

The high court found that the case involved Zuma in his personal capacity and that it “cannot be said to be in government’s or in the public interest to have appointed private attorneys for Mr Zuma and for the state to fund his private legal costs in defending the 18 criminal charges, including racketeering, corruption, money laundering, fraud and tax evasion, and in the related civil proceedings”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa chose not to oppose the legal challenges to Zuma’s continued state funding.

In an explanatory affidavit, his office pointed out that this funding can be forfeited if it could be shown, among other things, that Zuma did not act in the course and scope of his employment as a government official.

This is a developing story.