Former president Jacob Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma.

State can't recoup R15m spent on Zuma legal fees unless 'he's found guilty'

By Zintle Mahlati Time of article published Mar 14, 2018

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Parliament - President Cyril Ramaphosa says the State will not be able to recoup the R15.3 million spent on former president Jacob Zuma’s legal fees as a 2006 government agreement with Zuma blocks this process.

Ramaphosa said on Wednesday during a Question and Answer session in the National Assembly that it would be in violation on the agreement signed with Zuma to force him to pay back the money spent on his legal fees.

The president was responding to a questioned posed by EFF leader Julius Malema.

Ramaphosa broke down the amounts that were paid for Zuma over the years since 2006.  

“According to information from the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, government has contributed R15.3 million to the personal legal costs of former President Jacob Zuma since 2006. An amount of R7.8 million has been spent since 2009. 

"This stems from a request by the former president in 2006 for legal representation at State expense in respect of the criminal proceedings. Of this amount, approximately R7.5 million was spent in the period between 2006 and the withdrawal of the charges against the former president in 2009,” said Rampahosa.

The answer given by Ramaphosa did not satisfy the EFF, with Malema questioning the basis that was used to calculate Zuma’s legal fees. 

Malema said according to his calculation around R64 million was spent on Zuma’s legal fees if one includes the spy tapes matter and the Nkandla scandal.

Ramaphosa responded to Malema that the law used to calculate the legal bills was based on the agreement that Zuma had struck with the government that he would pay back the money only if he was found guilty and having acted in his own personal capacity.

ALSO READ: DA wants court to declare R15.3m spent on Zuma's legal fees 'unlawful'

But the EFF continued pressing Ramaphosa on this, asking for the specific law that was used.

“Right now, there is no way we could say to president Zuma in violation of the agreement, he must pay the costs,” said Malema.

Ramaphosa said he would have to check and get back to the EFF on the question. 

“The amounts that have been collected are the amount that Justice and Correctional Services have calculated. We have been using the agreement between Jacob Zuma and government. 

"I will need to check that more closely. This is not the first time this has been done, it has been done for other officials. Those who are charged for activities, criminal or otherwise, this agreement covers that,” he said.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson was quoted in the Mail&Guardian on Wednesday saying Ramaphosa was under the impression that legal fees were paid within the law according to the State Attorney’s Act.

The president might be forced to recoup the money if the DA wins its legal action. The party is heading to the court to ask for a declaratory order to force the Presidency to recoup the R15.3 million from Zuma.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said his party wants the court to declare the legal fees unlawful as Zuma was facing court cases in crimes he committed before he became President. 

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