Zuma's legal fees more than double the R15m cited by Ramaphosa

14 March 2018 - 18:15 By Karyn Maughan
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: Esa Alexander

Former president Jacob Zuma spent far more than R15.3-million fighting his corruption prosecution – with answers to parliamentary questions revealing that the total amount spent on Zuma's so-called Stalingrad campaign was an estimated R32.4-million.

President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed in Parliament on Wednesday that Zuma had spent R15.3-million battling the Democratic Alliance's case that the decision not to prosecute him was irrational and should be set aside. That case was launched in May 2009‚ the date that EFF leader Julius Malema identified as a starting point when he sought answers about how much state money had been spent on Zuma's legal fees.

But Advocate Ben Winks‚ who has spent over a year trying to determine just how much Zuma's litigation has cost the state‚ points out that answers to parliamentary questions from a series of justice ministers reveal the true extent of Zuma's corruption defence spending.

This comes as Malema said in Parliament that the EFF's estimates were that legal fees spent defending Zuma amounted to R64-million – a figure Ramaphosa said he wasn't aware of.

Former justice minister Brigitte Mabandla revealed that Zuma's legal team spent R9.6-million between September 2006 and July 2008 fighting‚ unsuccessfully‚ to overturn the search warrants used to raid the homes of Zuma and his lawyers.

Those raids resulted in the seizure of thousands of documents used to do an in-depth analysis of Zuma's financial affairs. This first batch of cases also involved the postponement of Zuma's criminal trial.

Mabandla's successor‚ Jeff Radebe‚ disclosed in Parliament that Zuma's lawyers had spent R7.3-million between April 2007 and 2009/2010 challenging the request for mutual legal assistance made by the National Prosecuting Authority to Mauritian authorities. That request for assistance related to several documents – including the so-called "encrypted fax" – that were crucial to the state's case that Zuma had taken a bribe from French arms company Thint.

The costs also relate to Zuma's successful application before Judge Chris Nicholson‚ who found that there was evidence suggesting that former president Thabo Mbeki had interfered in the Zuma prosecution.

This ruling was overturned on appeal‚ and taxpayers paid for that‚ too.

And state funding of Zuma's defence – should NDPP Shaun Abrahams decide to go ahead with the case – is not going to stop any time soon

Ramaphosa said Zuma signed a deal with Mbeki in 2006‚ in which he undertook to refund the money spent on his defence if he was found to have acted in "his personal capacity and own interests in the commission of the offences with which he has been charged".

But Ramaphosa struggled to answer Malema's questions about the policy that informed the state's funding of Zuma's personal legal fees. Ramaphosa said he needed to "check on that".

Speaking in his first question-and-answer session in Parliament on Wednesday‚ Ramaphosa reaffirmed the R15.3-million bill for Zuma's legal costs. However‚ EFF leader Julius Malema questioned whether the figure was actually much higher.

"We don't think that it includes cases like the Nkandla case‚ cases like the Public Protector's case‚ which the court was very clear he must pay from his personal pocket. If you were to take almost all these cases‚ that amount will not be accurate‚" Malema said.

He said that by "our estimates"‚ Zuma's total legal fees came to almost R64-million.

Responding‚ Ramaphosa said: "The amounts collated are the amounts that the department of justice and correctional services has been able to collate up to now. Honourable Malema is quoting R64-million. I am not aware of that."

The DA has also suggested it would bring a legal challenge to the state's continued funding of Zuma's legal battles.

Earlier‚ Ramaphosa said that there was an agreement between the presidency and Zuma that could see the former president being made to pay back the legal fees.

This agreement meant he would have to "refund the state if he was found to have acted in his personal capacity and his own interest".

Malema jumped on this‚ asking directly: "Since [Zuma] has lost the Spy Tapes case‚ with that agreement‚ are you now saying he is going to pay from personal coffers?"

Ramaphosa said it would be "exciting" to make such a statement – but that there was more at play.

"When the court‚ finally‚ and this is important because our judiciary is so independent…once they are finalised‚ the court will be able to make a determination [as per costs]. In this regard‚ they will even have line of sight of this agreement [between Zuma and the presidency]. It would be exciting… but we have to wait until that case is finalised and a determination is made by court‚" he said.