Jacob Zuma gestures after announcing his resignation at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Jacob Zuma gestures after announcing his resignation at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

DA hits out at ‘double standards’ over Zuma legal fees

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published Mar 24, 2018

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Johannesburg - The DA has accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of double standards following his decision to foot the legal bill of Jacob Zuma against criminal charges while refusing the same favour for five apartheid police officers charged with the murder of Nokuthula Simelane.

The DA made these submissions in the urgent application in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on Friday after Ramaphosa confirmed that the state would pay the legal fees after criminal charges were reinstated against Zuma last week.

DA Federal Council chairman James Selfe, in his court papers, said Ramaphosa had no legal grounds to make such a decision which would allow Zuma to challenge the 16 charges of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money-laundering charges.

Ramaphosa made the confirmation in his reply to question by the EFF’s Julius Malema, made public this week.

In his reply, Ramaphosa said the decision to allow taxpayers’ money to be used was done in accordance with Section 3(3) of the State Attorney Act of 1957 saying it was allowable because the alleged offences were committed while Zuma was holding an official position in government as MEC for Economic Development in KwaZulu-Natal.

He also said that Zuma made a commitment to then president Thabo Mbeki that he would pay back the money should he be convicted on the criminal charges against him.

On Friday, the DA vehemently opposed Ramaphosa’s decision and asked the High Court to set aside is decision.

In his papers, James Selfe argued that Section 3(3) does not allow Ramaphosa or any other government official to make such a decision to impose on the State the obligation to pay for Zuma’s personal legal costs.

He said the function of the State’s Attorney office was to perform work on behalf of the government.

In his papers, Selfe said: “While this function may extend to providing legal services to public officials in their official capacity, it does not permit the State Attorney to provide legal services to public officials who sue or are being sued or prosecuted in their capacity”.

Ramaphosa was now expected to file reply affidavits which would justify their decision to foot the bill but Selfe was adamant in his legal submission that he found no legal justification in Ramaphosa’s reply to the EFF.

“The government can have no legitimate interest or concern in the conduct of a defence against criminal charges, particularly where the alleged crimes concern the abuse of public office.

“The public interest demands that such damages are prosecuted and met to ensure public accountability, the promotion of good governance and the protection of the rule of law,” Selfe said.

He said the same State Attorney’s office had repeatedly refused to use state funds to fund the five police officers to challenge the murder accusations which have resulted in long delays in the trial proceedings.

These police officers have been for the past three years arguing that the alleged offence of murdering Simelane, an uMkhonto we Sizwe’s operative, was committed while they were in their official capacity as members of the South African Police. In their court papers, they argued that they acted on legal instructions from their commanders or seniors when Simelane disappeared in 1983.

“The litigation that Mr Zuma has conducted following his indictment has been calculated to and has in fact served to obstruct and delay the administration of justice.

“Mr Zuma has abused the courts to avoid public accountability, in defiance of the public interest,” Selfe said.

He also asked the court to set aside any agreement, if any, entered into between Zuma and Mbeki to repay the costs after the completion of the criminal hearing. The High Court was also asked to order Zuma to immediately pay back R15.3 million of taxpayers’ money which he used to block the spy tapes cases against him.

Ramaphosa and Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha are expected to file answering affidavits before the matter is set down for trial.

Political Bureau

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