Court to decide if Jacob Zuma must pay millions for his legal fees
Former president Jacob Zuma will hear on Thursday whether he will have to foot the bill for his corruption case.
The high court in Pretoria will hand down judgment in the application brought by the DA to have the agreement authorising state funding for Zuma’s defence in criminal cases set aside.
Earlier in 2018, Zuma pleaded poverty.
In March Michael Hulley, who has since been fired as Zuma’s lawyer, said without state funding, the former president would not have the means to defend himself in court. This was despite Zuma receiving a lifelong salary as a former head of state. Since then Zuma has replaced his entire legal team.
So far, the state has paid between R15m and R32m in legal costs for Zuma, and it has said it will continue to fund his defence until the 2008 agreement is reviewed and set aside by a court.
Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering stemming from 783 alleged payments to him in relation to the arms deal when he was KwaZulu-Natal MEC of economic affairs and tourism. Charges were dropped in 2009 and reinstated earlier in 2018.
The former president has now lodged an application for a permanent stay of prosecution. He appeared in court in November, and the matter was postponed to May 20.
In his affidavit, Zuma has claimed he is being used as a “scapegoat” for those “who themselves seek to engage in sophisticated looting of the state resources while they lull society into believing that they act in its interests”.
The DA and the EFF have asked the court for a declaratory order that it was illegal to pay Zuma’s legal fees and to order the state attorney to determine how much money was paid in the process and then recover it from Zuma — if needs be through civil court action.
During court proceedings in November, it was argued that the court would have to determine whether public representatives accused of corruption and implicated in allegations of state capture would be eligible to have their defence funded by taxpayers.
Zuma, his son Duduzane and the controversial Gupta family are at the heart of state capture allegations that resulted in the establishment of the Zondo commission of inquiry.
In November, the high court in Pretoria dismissed Zuma’s bid to appeal a costs order made against him in his personal capacity when he approached the court to review the State of Capture report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela.