Zuma's legal fees: He abused his office and should not receive special treatment, court hears

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Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: AFP)
Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: AFP)

Former 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 DA and 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.

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.

READ: State will pay Zuma's legal fees until court rules otherwise

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."

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

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.

The hearing continues.

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