Former president Jacob Zuma. File picture: FRIEDEMANN VOGEL/EPA-EFE
Former president Jacob Zuma’s bid to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of rand in personal legal costs that he owes Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office is heading to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

In November last year, the North Gauteng High Court dismissed Zuma’s application for leave to appeal the personal costs order granted against him after he was unsuccessful in reviewing Mkhwebane’s predecessor Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report, which was released in October 2016.

Judge-President Dunstan Mlambo and judges Phillip Boruchowitz and Wendy Hughes found that Zuma was ill-advised and reckless for taking the report on review in December 2017.

The SCA has agreed to hear Zuma’s appeal of the personal costs order the high court granted against him.

Zuma wants the SCA to declare that the high court erred in dismissing his application for condonation for the late filing of his appeal.

The former head of state also wants the country’s second-highest court to determine whether the high court’s decision to refuse him leave to appeal was correct, and whether the personal costs order was proper.

Zuma maintains that it was not reckless, as the high court found, for him to approach it to review the State of Capture report.

The high court found that Zuma’s application to review the report was ill advised, reckless and that he acted unreasonably. “The review application was a clear non-starter and the president was seriously reckless in pursuing it. His conduct falls far short of the high standard expressed in section 195 of the Constitution,” the high court stated.

Zuma owes the Public Protector R330000 in unpaid legal fees for high profile cases he lost with costs. About R164000 relates to the failed review of Madonsela’s report, while almost R165500 is for Zuma’s urgent application to interdict the release of the report, which he later withdrew.

At the time, Zuma sought to prevent the finalisation and release of the report through the interdict until such time as he had been afforded a reasonable opportunity to provide input into Madonsela’s investigation.

In their scathing ruling on Zuma’s unsuccessful review application, judges Mlambo, Boruchowitz and Hughes found that his conduct fell far short of the expectation on him as head of state to support institutions of democracy such as the public protector.

“The remedial action of the public protector presented him with an opportunity to confront and address the problem.

“Our view is that the president had no justifiable basis to launch the review application,” ruled the judges, adding that Zuma had no justifiable basis to simply ignore the impact of corruption on the public.

“The overarching basis for the remedial action challenged by the president is that he is personally implicated in the malfeasance and improper conduct investigated by the public protector.

“The personal conflict of the president presents an insurmountable obstacle and lends credence to the conception of the remedial action by the public protector,” the judges found.

The SCA will hear Zuma’s appeal in February.

Political Bureau