Johannesburg - The legal battle between former president Jacob Zuma and the DA has finally been set down in the High Court in Pretoria for Tuesday.
The court has set aside two days to determine whether Zuma was entitled to use taxpayers’ funds to fight corruption charges against him.
The DA lodged an application in March this year in which it asked the court to set aside the government’s decision to pay for the legal fees incurred by Zuma.
The legal battle takes place ahead of Zuma’s next court appearance on charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on November 30.
In his last court appearance in August, Zuma’s legal team, headed by advocate Mike Hellens, SC, indicated that they would bring an application for a permanent stay of prosecution, but have since abandoned the idea of reviewing the charges against him.
The outcome of the DA application is likely to determine whether the South African government will continue to pay Zuma’s legal fees.
The DA, in its papers in the High Court in Pretoria, argues that President Cyril Ramaphosa and the State Attorney’s Office have invoked the wrong sections of the law, Section 3(1) and Section 3(3), to justify that the state should pay Zuma’s legal costs.
In his papers, DA Federal Council chairperson James Selfe submitted: “I deny that either of these provisions authorises the state attorney or the president, or any other public official for that matter, to decide to impose on the state the obligation to pay Mr Zuma’s personal legal costs, conditionally or otherwise.”
Selfe said Section 3(1) provides for the function of the state attorney to perform work on behalf of the government, saying while this function may extend to providing legal services to public officials in their official capacity, it did not permit the state attorney to provide legal services to public officials who sue or are being sued or prosecuted in their personal capacities.
“Neither Section 3(1) nor Section 3(3) authorises the state attorney or any other person to assume responsibility on behalf of the state for the costs incurred by other private attorneys (or the counsel and experts instructed by such a private person),” Selfe said.
He said Zuma’s criminal charges did not meet the requirements to obtain legal assistance in his court battles.
“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,” Selfe added.
Zuma is opposing the application on the grounds that he undertook to repay the state after the completion of the criminal charges against him, especially if he was found guilty of the offences.