Zuma hires new legal 'dream team' in spite of Ramaphosa's squeeze

At least two of former president's lawyers linked to Gupta cases

22 July 2018 - 00:04 By KARYN MAUGHAN
Jacob Zuma will be back in court this week, this time with a legal 'dream team' that includes four senior advocates. No one, however, will say who is footing the former president's legal bill.
Jacob Zuma will be back in court this week, this time with a legal 'dream team' that includes four senior advocates. No one, however, will say who is footing the former president's legal bill.
Image: Jackie Clausen

Former president Jacob Zuma will have a new legal "dream team" when he returns to court on corruption charges this week. On the slate are two lawyers who are also representing the Gupta family - but none of them will say who is footing the bill.

Four senior advocates and one junior counsel - estimated to cost anywhere between R160,000 and R290,000 a day - will walk into the High Court in Pietermaritzburg alongside the former president on Friday. As a guide to the costs likely to be incurred, two years ago it was reported that advocate Jeremy Gauntlett SC was being paid about R50,000 a day to help Zuma extricate himself from the Nkandla scandal.

The cost is likely to escalate into the millions when Zuma goes to trial in November.

The team includes two advocates acting for Zuma's son Duduzane and the Gupta family in state capture criminal cases.

Presidency spokeswoman Khusela Diko said President Cyril Ramaphosa's office had agreed to pay for only one senior advocate and two junior counsel, pending the outcome of a court challenge by the EFF and DA to block Zuma's legal funding by the state.

"The Presidency has approved a legal team of the same size as that which the former president previously had, being one senior and two junior counsel. We have made no further commitments," Diko said.

"The Presidency will honour only the commitment made to the payment of expenses related to a team of the size we've agreed to. We have no commitment beyond this and [are] thus not liable. Besides, we would not be in a position to legally justify such costs."

Despite the lack of state funding for his new legal team, Zuma will be represented by some of South Africa's most prominent advocates:

  • Senior counsel Mike Hellens, who has acted for the Gupta family in their successful efforts to challenge Asset Forfeiture Unit seizures of R250-million as alleged "proceeds of crime" linked to the Estina dairy project. He also represents Duduzane in his culpable homicide case after two women died in a 2014 car crash.
  • Senior counsel Dawie Joubert, who also represents Duduzane in his corruption trial. Duduzane is accused of being involved in a Gupta family plot to bribe then deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and has denied any wrongdoing.
  • Senior counsel Muzi Sikhakhane, who led the Sikhakhane commission that investigated the conduct of former top SARS investigator Johann van Loggerenberg. The commission found the SARS "national research group" had been unlawfully established and "operated ostensibly in a covert manner, and had created a climate of intrigue, fear and subterfuge within the organisation".
  • Senior counsel Thabani Masuku, who represented former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng in his unsuccessful court battle to avoid paying legal costs attached to the unlawful dismissal of the "SABC8" staffers. Masuku also represented Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe when Hlophe argued that 13 Constitutional Court justices had violated his rights. They did so, Hlophe said, by making public their complaint to the Judicial Service Commission that he tried to improperly influence two ConCourt justices to favour Jacob Zuma. In July 2017, Masuku was appointed by Zuma to represent him on the JSC, which is responsible for the selection of judges.
  • Junior counsel Mpilo Sikhakhane, senior counsel Muzi's son.

Hellens confirmed the names of the legal team, and said they would all be in court on Friday. He declined to comment on how the team was being funded, referring questions to Zuma's new attorney Daniel Mantsha.

"I've simply been briefed," he said. "I'm really not in a position to comment on that."

Zuma missed a June 18 deadline to respond to the EFF and DA cases, and to explain to the High Court in Pretoria why he was entitled to funding for his corruption trial defence. His attorney, Daniel Mantsha, has yet to indicate when the former president will file his response, or why he hasn't.

Zuma faces 16 charges that include fraud, corruption and racketeering. These charges relate to Zuma's allegedly corrupt relationship with Schabir Shaik, who was convicted for facilitating a R500,000-a-year bribe for Zuma from Thales. The bribe would be given in exchange for Zuma's protection from an investigation into the arms deal.

He is also fighting to overturn a court order that he personally pay an estimated R10-million in legal costs linked to failed bids to challenge the release and findings of former public protector Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report. He has told the high court the order "poses a significant financial burden on me personally".

Earlier this month Zuma fired his longtime attorney Michael Hulley and replaced him with Mantsha, a former Denel board chairman and known Gupta associate.

Mantsha has also been implicated in allegations of state capture. Leaked e-mails in 2017 disclosed what appeared to be damaging correspondence between Mantsha and the Gupta family about the establishment of Denel Asia, a joint venture between the group and associates of the Guptas.

Other damning e-mails show Mantsha sending the Gupta family his personal bills. It is not known if they were paid.

Sikhakhane SC and Masuku did not respond to requests for comment, while Joubert referred questions to Hellens.

Gupta family attorney Rudi Krause, who briefed Hellens to act for Duduzane in his culpable homicide case and Joubert to represent him in his corruption trial, declined to comment on whether the family was paying Zuma's legal bills.

"I cannot comment on the issue," he said, referring questions to Mantsha. Mantsha did not respond to requests for comment.

Zuma's spokesman, Vukile Mathabela, did not respond to queries about whether the Guptas were funding the legal costs.


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