Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa says the deal struck between the state and former president Jacob Zuma regarding the payment of his legal fees was legal.
Ramaposa said in a statement issued on Thursday that the State Attorney decided that it was appropriate for the state to pay for Zuma’s legal fees after he made the request and legal options were explored.
This means the state will continue to pay for Zuma’s legal fees until he is found by a court to have acted in his own personal capacity.
The President said the agreement was subject to the fact that Zuma agreed to pay back all the monies spent on his legal fees if he was found to have acted in his personal capacity and own interest when he committed the crimes.
Ramaphosa has submitted to Parliament his response to a question posed by EFF leader Julius Malema who was not satisfied with the answers provided by Ramaphosa during his first question and answer session Parliament last week.
Malema questioned the amount of R15.3 million that Ramaphosa said was spent on Zuma’s legal fees. Malema said in his estimation the amount could be over R60 million.
The EFF leader also demanded to know which law was used by the government to grant Zuma’s request for his legal fees to be paid by the state.
Ramaphosa says the State Attorney used sections of the State Attorney Act along with Treasury regulations to allow for Zuma’s fees to be paid by tax payers.
“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,” said Ramaphosa.
He said the decision also considered the basis that the acts of crimes that Zuma faces, which include corruption charges, were committed during his tenure as a government official at the provincial level as MEC in KwaZulu-Natal and later as the Deputy President of the country.
“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,” he said.
The R15.3 million that Ramaphosa said was spent on Zuma’s legal fees, only focused on his legal battles to defend the spy tapes matter and does not include other matters such as Nkandla and the review application for the Public Protector’s state of capture report.
The concerns over Zuma’s continued use of state funds for legal matters is set to rise as the former president is set to face a corruption trial.
Opposition parties have warned to approach the courts to question the legality of the agreement between Zuma and the state. They also want to prevent Zuma from having his corruption trial legal fees paid by the state.