The Democratic Alliance (DA) has argued that the decisions by the state attorney and the presidency to cover former president Jacob Zuma’s legal costs are unlawful and should be set aside.
Sean Rosenberg SC‚ on behalf of the DA‚ argued before a full bench in the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday that decisions taken by the accounting officer in the presidency to fund Zuma’s fees were unlawful.
The DA has approached the court to seek a review of the presidency’s decision to pay Zuma’s legal fees in criminal charges against him.
According to the party‚ the state has already spent at least R15.3-million on Zuma’s legal fees.
Zuma faces 18 criminal charges‚ including counts of fraud‚ racketeering‚ and money laundering.
Rosenberg argued that Section 3 (1) of the State Attorney Act does not provide for the covering of Zuma’s legal costs in his personal capacity.
“Section 3 provides that the state attorney shall perform work on behalf of the government.
“The government was not a party to the criminal proceedings in which Mr Zuma was the accused in his personal capacity‚” Rosenberg argued.
According to Rosenberg‚ Section 3(1) is not a provision that authorises the state attorney to outsource its services to a private attorney as it had done in paying Zuma’s private lawyer‚ Michael Hulley‚ for legal fees incurred by the former president.
“The state attorney was requested to act on Zuma’s behalf in his personal capacity‚ not on behalf of government.
“In engaging in corrupt activities‚ Mr Zuma was not acting in the scope of his employment.”
He said the fact that Zuma held public office‚ when he allegedly engaged in corrupt deals‚ was irrelevant.
“Allowing perpetrators to resist being held accountable by drawing on seemingly limitless state resources to litigate ad nauseam subverts the constitutional injunction to prosecute corruption‚” Rosenberg argued.
He said the DA wanted the court to order Zuma to disclose the full amounts the state paid thus far to cover his legal costs for his criminal cases.
The party also wanted an order directing the former president to pay those amounts.
“The appropriate remedy is a declaration that the state is not liable for Zuma’s legal fees.
“The decisions that have been taken to fund Mr Zuma must be set aside‚” Rosenberg argued.
He contended that there could not be a legitimate expectation on Zuma’s part to receive “unlawful” funding .
“The suggestion that he can’t afford to pay his legal fees‚ can’t be taken seriously‚” said Rosenberg.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)‚ represented by Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi‚ argued that the decisions by the state attorney to grant funding for Zuma’s 2006 and 2008 criminal cases were “egregious” and surrounded by maladministration‚ “and personally enriched Mr Zuma at great public expense“.
According to the EFF‚ the decisions to fund Zuma’s legal fees were not authorised by any law and were instead inconsistent with the State Attorney Act and the principle of equality before the law.
“The impugned decisions and each of the payments thus fail to be set aside. Even if the impugned decisions themselves were valid (or deemed valid‚ as they had not yet been set aside)‚ each payment must still be considered separately‚ to ascertain‚ firstly‚ whether it was authorised by the terms of the impugned decision‚ and secondly‚ whether it was itself consistent with the Act and the Constitution‚ ” Ngcukaitobi said.
Zuma had misused his official powers when he sought legal funding to cover his costs‚ Ngcukaitobi argued.
“Similarly‚ the counts of corruption‚ fraud‚ racketeering‚ money laundering and tax evasion — on which Mr Zuma has been indicted — have nothing to do with any of the official functions he was required to perform as MEC or deputy president. His specific conduct — receiving 783 gratifications outside his official remuneration — is not conduct that could be in any way connected to his official functions.”
Nomahlubi Jordaan – TimesLIVE