Johannesburg - The DA is heading to court in a bid to force former president Jacob Zuma to pay back the multi-million legal bill emanating from his criminal charges in the so-called Spy Tape saga.
DA federal executive chairperson James Selfe said the party would be filing papers to the high court between today and Monday as it seeks to have the decision to pay for Zuma's legal representation to be set aside.
The Presidency incurred R15.3million in legal costs in the protracted court battle between the DA and the National Prosecuting Authority following the 2009 decision by the authority to drop charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering against Zuma.
“We are taking both the Presidency and the Department of Justice to court, because the decision to pay for the civil case that we launched on this matter had nothing to do with the government.
"It had everything to do with Zuma as a private individual. He must bring back this R15m,” Selfe said.
On Thursday, in response to last week’s question from the EFF about Zuma's legal bill, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the State Attorney took the decision to pick up the tab after his request as a public official, using the provisions of the State Attorney Act.
The EFF asked Ramaphosa during the oral reply session in Parliament to reveal both the total amount spent by the Presidency in footing Zuma's legal bill since 2009 and the legal provisions relied on when state resources were used to pay for his legal representation.
While Ramaphosa revealed the figures, he promised to provide the legal basis for sponsoring Zuma’s litigation in a week's time.
“I was informed that the State attorney, at the time of considering the request made by President Zuma for legal representation at State expense, considered section 3(3) of the State Attorney Act, 1957 (as amended) to give her discretion where the State was not party to a matter but interested or concerned in it, or it was in the public interest to provide such representation to a government official.
“The acts on the basis of which it is alleged that the former president committed criminal offences took place during his tenure as a government official, both at provincial and later at national level,”Ramaphosa said.
It was in 1998, while Zuma was still KwaZulu-Natal MEC for economic development, when he allegedly secured bribes from bidders in exchange for influencing the state’s arms deal procurement in their favour.
Ramaphosa also indicated that Zuma would have to pay back the money should he be convicted on the criminal charges against him.
Also read: ‘State must pay Zuma's legal bills’
“In addition, the Department of Justice considered section 12.2.2 of the then applicable Treasury Regulations, issued in terms of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999, read with section 3(1) of the State Attorney Act, as providing for an obligation to refund the state if any loss was found to be incurred when an official was acting outside the course and scope of his employment.
“For this reason, the State Attorney decided that it was appropriate to grant the request of the former president, subject to the condition that he make an undertaking (which he did) to refund monies thus spent should it be found that he acted in his personal capacity and own interest in the commission of the alleged offences,” he said.
Selfe rejected Ramaphosa's explanation, adding that the R15.3m already incurred by the Presidency had nothing to do with the case but the civil action aimed at reinstating the charges.
“First, the allegations relating to Zuma had absolutely nothing to do with his job as the then MEC for economic development, so there is no logic behind having an agreement to foot the bill for such criminal proceedings.
“Second, the money that has been incurred since 2009 has nothing to do with the case and its merits but rather the civil action that we lodged for the reinstatement of the charges by the NPA.
"So there is no reason why the state should be paying for that,” Selfe said.
NPA head Shaun Abrahams has since decided to reinstate charges against Zuma.