President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

UPDATED: 

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma must personally be held liable for the costs of his court bid to interdict the release of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's State Capture report, the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, has ruled.

Delivering a unanimous judgment on behalf of a full bench of high court judges, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said the stance adopted by Zuma in 2016 on the status of the report was "completely unreasonable".

Mlambo said there was no basis for Zuma's application to interdict the release of the report.

"The president's persistence to continue with the application [for an interdict against the public protector] amounts to abuse of judicial process," said Mlambo. "He is ordered to personally pay the costs." 

"My view is that in this case a simple punitive costs order is not appropriate. I say this because that would make the taxpayer liable for costs. This is a case where this court would be justified in finding that this unwarranted instance for the taxpayer to carry that burden," Mlambo read out.

"The conduct of the president, and the context of the litigation he initiated requires sterner rebuke. There is not the slightest doubt that, properly considered, the background of the matter and the circumstances of the litigation show that the president had no acceptable basis in law, and in fact, to have persisted with this litigation."

Mlambo said Zuma's conduct "amounts to an attempt to stymie the fulfilment of a constitutional obligation by the office of the public protector".

Mlambo said Zuma had compounded matters when he persisted with the litigation, "based on a supposed typing error" after initially conceding that Madonsela's report be released.

A  senior advocate who was part of the proceedings previously said the bill could run to more than R3 million.

Zuma withdrew his application to halt the release of the report on the morning which his legal team was due to start with their arguments. The report was then released later that day.

The court is due to rule later on whether Zuma is legally compelled by the Public Protector to set up the inquiry.

ANA and Reuters