Maimane slams Zuma's growing legal fees being paid by taxpayers

DA leader Mmusi Maimane (File, Gallo Images)
DA leader Mmusi Maimane (File, Gallo Images)

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has again slammed the reported growing cost of former president Jacob Zuma's corruption case to taxpayers.

The Sunday Times reported over the weekend that Zuma put together a new legal "dream team" of four senior advocates and one junior counsel, including two lawyers who also represent the Gupta family, at a cost of between R160 000 and R290 000 a day.

ALSO READ: Justice dept paid R24m for Zuma's legal costs - Masutha

Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said the Presidency had agreed to pay for the costs of one senior and two junior counsel only, but nothing further, the report said.

On Monday, Maimane said this would amount to "millions" at taxpayers' expense when Zuma's "spy tapes" trial resumes in November, after almost a decade.

"Due to a long-standing agreement that the state would pay for Jacob Zuma's legal fees, the ANC government will be picking the pockets of South Africans in order to fund Zuma's legal defence team," Maimane said in a statement.

'The public should not pay one further cent'

"This shows that the ANC is not committed to rooting out corruption. Instead, they want South Africans to pay to keep Jacob Zuma out of prison.

"The longer the ANC stays in power, the more our country will suffer from the rot of corruption."

Maimane implored President Cyril Ramaphosa to cancel the agreement. Ramaphosa revealed in May that the agreement, which Zuma signed in 2006 when the Presidency was under then-president Thabo Mbeki, formed the basis for the decision to continue paying for Zuma's legal fees in the "spy tapes" matter.

ALSO READ: DA wants review of Zuma R15.3m legal fee payments

The DA filed papers in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in March, asking for the agreement to be declared invalid and for it to be set aside.

"We have also requested that the court order that the R15.3m already spent on past criminal and civil proceedings be refunded," Maimane continued.

"The public should not pay one further cent towards Zuma's legal fees. We believe that the agreement that the ANC government reached with Zuma to cover his costs is illegal. It has no basis in law and should be scrapped immediately."

State Attorney Act

In a parliamentary reply in March, Ramaphosa said the legal basis for the agreement was the State Attorney Act, read in conjunction with Treasury's regulations at the time.

He said successive presidents assume the obligations undertaken by their predecessors upon taking office and he was therefore bound by the 2006 agreement, unless the court ruled otherwise.

According to the act, the state attorney could use discretion to grant requests in cases where the state was not party to a matter, but "interested or concerned in", the reply read.

ALSO READ: Zuma legal fees: Presidency agrees to abide by court ruling

"The acts on the basis of which it is alleged that the former president [Zuma] committed criminal offences took place during his tenure as a government official, both at provincial and later at national level," the reply read.

Ramaphosa said Zuma agreed to repay the money if the court found that he had acted in his personal capacity or if he lost the case.

The Presidency would also abide by whatever ruling the court made in the DA's application.

A date has not been set yet for the application.

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