Zuma’s legal costs are sky high

2013-02-01 00:00

THE presidency’s legal costs have shot up since Jacob Zuma has been president.

During former president Thabo Mbeki’s term, the presidency spent about R500 000 a year on legal costs. In only one year did this rise above R1 million.

In Zuma’s first year in office, the presidency spent R13,6 million on legal costs.

In 2010/2011, R6,34 million was spent, and in 2011/2012 R6,30 million.

In his medium-term budget last October, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan allocated R20 million to the presidency for unforeseen “legal costs and executive service costs”, on top of the presidency’s original 2012/12 budget.

Presidential spokesperson Harold Maloka said the rise in costs was a function of the type and number of cases against the presidency.

“The costs are attributable to the complexity of the cases the presidency has to answer. We don’t initiate cases, but we have to respond when cases are instituted against the presidency.”

He said the presidency had to ask the treasury for the additional R20 million last year because there were more court cases than expected.

“A request was made so we could bear those costs.”

Treasury spokesperson Jabulani Sikhakhane said the request was approved by the cabinet and budgeted for.

In terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), sister paper Beeld applied for a breakdown of the amounts spent on various cases.

The presidency refused the request.

Since he was charged with corruption in 2005, Zuma has frequently been involved in legal proceedings.

In 2008/2009, his legal fees cost taxpayers R5 million while Kgalema Motlanthe was president.

Recently, the presidency paid the costs for the case in which Zuma’s appointment of Menzi Simelane as director of Public Prosecutions was found to be invalid.

Also covered were the costs in the case over the review of the NPA’s decision not to prosecute Zuma for corruption.

Last year, Zuma went to court over Brett Murray’s painting The Spear. In this case it is not clear who bore the costs.

Since 2006, Zuma has sued five newspaper groups for defamation over the publication of cartoons by Zapiro. His lawyers said he bore these costs himself.

The presidency also did not cover Zuma’s costs in the rape trial in which he was acquitted.

DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said the amount spent on legal fees showed Zuma was more concerned with how he was portrayed than with service delivery and job creation.

“He spends so much time [on court cases] that it costs the taxpayer millions of rands.

“Moreover, his repeated legal woes raise questions about his fitness for office … [and] the taxpayer is paying the price.”

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