Zuma abused his office and should not receive special treatment, SA court hears

PRETORIA-Former South African president Jacob Zuma abused his office and has always been given special treatment, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria heard on Tuesday.

Both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have brought applications to the High Court asking it to set aside the decisions made by the state attorney granting requests by Zuma to fund his legal costs in his criminal cases.

The Presidency has previously said the state would carry on covering Zuma’s legal fees until a court decides otherwise. 

However,
arguing before a full Bench on Tuesday, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi,
representing the EFF, said the state had given Zuma and his former
attorney, Michael Hulley, “a blank cheque”. 

Ngcukaitobi
said the party sought an order directing the former president and
Hulley to pay back money spent by the state attorney in Zuma’s legal
battle.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa previously revealed that R15.3m had already been paid in the time Zuma had been challenging the “spy tapes” corruption matter – recordings of an apparent plot against him – as he faces charges related to allegedly accepting a bribe from French arms company Thales in the awarding of an arms deal.

‘An element of favouritism’

Ngcukaitobi argued, however, that the amount of R15.3m did not “square up”.

“There is no meaningful reply on actually how much was spent. There was a failure of proper record-keeping and proper management,” he said.

Ngcukaitobi
also said since Zuma had lost his appeal in the corruption matter in
the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), he should be liable to pay costs. 

“Mr
Zuma lost the appeal before the SCA, despite that, he said if he loses
he will pay (but) officials said we will settle his legal fees and we
will settle his costs.

“It was always his legal fees that were of concern but never costs if he lost,” Ngcukaitobi said. 

“Zuma
has been given special treatment (and) there has been an element of
favoritism. He (Zuma) must be treated like everyone else,” he added.

He
added that according to the state attorney, the office had funded nine
cases in which Zuma was involved. He argued that Zuma should approach
Legal Aid for funding.

No authorisation to pay for private attorneys

Meanwhile,
the DA has argued for an order setting aside the decision by the
director general in the Presidency and the state attorney to fund Zuma’s
succession of personal litigation.

Arguing on behalf of the DA,
advocate Sean Rosenberg, SC, said the State Attorney Act and treasury
regulations did not authorise the state to pay for the work and costs
incurred by private attorneys.

Rosenberg told judges that the
criminal prosecution was against Zuma in his personal capacity and
therefore the state should not pay for his legal fees.

“The state attorney has requested to act on his behalf not on behalf of government,” Rosenberg said.

“Section
3 (1) authorises the state attorney to act on behalf of government and
perform the work ordinarily performed by attorneys and other legal
representatives in court.”

In
March, former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Shaun Abrahams
announced that the NPA would go ahead with the prosecution of Zuma on 16
charges, including corruption, money laundering and racketeering.

The
charges were dropped in 2009 by former NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe, based
on recordings, the “spy tapes”, which were presented to him by Zuma’s
legal team.

The tapes were made up of recordings of telephone
conversations between then Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and former
NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka, which Zuma’s legal team claimed showed
political interference in the decision to charge him.

The charges were subsequently withdrawn, just before Zuma was sworn in for his first term as president.

News 24