Zuma lawyer’s ‘bad’ costs taxpayers thousands

2014-05-15 13:39

An error by President Jacob Zuma’s lawyers today forced the Constitutional Court to postpone the hearing of a case about whether the Hawks are sufficiently protected from political interference.

Advocate Kemp J Kemp, who is representing Zuma in the case, told the court: “During the course of yesterday afternoon, I bumped into one of my learned colleagues and it became apparent [that Zuma’s] heads of argument were not received by any of the two applicants.”

City Press understands that this interaction took place at the airport, where one of the lawyers involved in the case bumped into Kemp and was surprised to learn he would be separately representing the president in the matter.

The government and the minister of police are jointly represented in the matter.

The applicants in the case are the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and businessman Hugh Glenister, who are arguing that the legislation governing the Hawks does not sufficiently shield the unit from political interference.

Although heads of argument – summaries of the legal arguments that lawyers intend to present before court – were filed by Zuma’s attorneys in court on time, they were not received by lawyers for the HSF and Glenister, giving them no time to prepare.

An apologetic Kemp yesterday offered to pay the wasted cost associated with today’s false start for three counsel, or advocates.

Kemp said the error must have arisen as a result of a “misunderstanding between the direct instructing attorney in Cape Town and the correspondent attorney here [in Johannesburg]”.

When told that Constitutional Court justices had also experienced difficulties retrieving the documents, Kemp said he could only say “mea culpa”, a Latin phrase which means “through my fault”.

The court subsequently granted the order for wasted costs – at taxpayers’ expense – and postponed the matter to August 19.

It did not, however, make an order on costs for a third counsel for Glenister, as offered by Kemp, after Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and Justice Johann van der Westhuizen raised concerns about the taxpayer having to foot the bill for the mistake.

The question of costs about a third counsel will therefore be held over until the matter is heard in August.

Although the counsel for the HSF are acting pro bono, one senior counsel, who asked not to be named, told City Press the bill would still run well into the “thousands”.

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