Zuma loses supreme court appeal against personal costs order made over Madonsela report

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Former president Jacob Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma.
Thulie Dlamini, Gallo Images

  • The SCA dismissed former president Jacob Zuma's appeal of a Gauteng High Court ruling.
  • The ruling had said he must pay the costs of a failed application to review Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report recommendation.
  • Madonsela, who was then public protector, recommended that an inquiry into state capture be established.


The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has dismissed former president Jacob Zuma's leave to appeal a ruling by another court, which stated he should be held personally liable for the costs resulting from a failed attempt to review then public protector Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture Report in 2016.

Zuma had sought to review and set aside a decision by Madonsela, which required him to appoint a commission to conduct an inquiry into allegations of corruption involving him as the head of state as well as senior officials in the government.

He applied for leave to appeal an order by a full bench of the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria which had directed him to pay, in his personal capacity, and on a punitive scale.

In handing down judgment in 2017, the North Gauteng High Court had found that Zuma was reckless in how he dealt with Madonsela's report and slapped him with a personal costs order, which is believed to amount to around R10 million.

Judge President Dunstan Mlambo at the time dismissed Zuma's application against Madonsela's report.

Mlambo found that Zuma was compromised and had a "clear personal interest in the outcome of the inquiry".

"None of the grounds of review (in Zuma's application) have any merit. The remedial action (of the Public Protector) is lawful and appropriate."


He described Zuma's actions as "completely unreasonable" and "grossly remiss".

He said Zuma was irrational and his conduct fell far short of what was required of the president in the Constitution.

READ | Zuma won't attend state capture commission until 'biased' Zondo recuses himself

Zuma then approached the appellate court in Bloemfontein. 

He argued that the high court had erred by holding him personally liable for the legal costs as he was not cited in his personal capacity or given an opportunity to explain his conduct to decide on the punitive ruling.

In a judgment handed down on Friday by the SCA, Judge A Schippers dismissed the matter with costs. 

"The respondents submitted that Mr Zuma's conduct in proceeding with this application, and his attempt to relitigate the merits of the review, constitute an abuse of process," Schippers said.

Error

"There is force in this submission, given that in both the review application and these proceedings, Mr Zuma sought to justify the impermissible, rather than accept the error of his challenge.

"And it cannot conceivably be in the interests of justice to permit Mr Zuma to pursue an appeal against the costs order, in circumstances where the launch of the review application was reckless and motivated by personal interests.

"His delay in establishing the commission of enquiry into serious allegations of state capture was prejudicial both to the public and national interest, and subversive of our democratic ethos.

"For all these reasons, a punitive costs order in this application is justified. The applicant has not established a reasonable prospect of success on appeal. It is therefore unnecessary to consider the high court's refusal to condone the late filing of the application for leave to intervene.


"The following order is issued: The application for leave to appeal is dismissed with costs, including the costs of two counsel on the scale as between attorney and client," Schippers said.

Zuma was the appellant in the matter and the respondents are the Office of the Public Protector, the Public Protector, the EFF, UDM, DA, COPE, Mabel Mentor as well as the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac).

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