Johannesburg - Former president Jacob Zuma will not be able to repay the state if he loses his corruption case, his nephew Simphiwe Zuma has told The Star.
On Sunday, Simphiwe said the state should pay for Zuma’s legal bills - whether he wins or not - as the allegations against him were brought against him while he was carrying out official duties as the president of the country.
“It confuses me when they say he must pay back the legal fees if he loses the case.
"Where is Zuma going to get such a huge amount of money to pay back the state?
"Whatever he did, he did it while he was employed by the government. Therefore, the government must fund his legal expenses without expecting a refund,” Simphiwe contended.
He said the family were yet to meet to discuss Zuma's trial.
“By the look of it, the case will take years to be finalised, and it is going to be very expensive. I will meet Zuma on Tuesday,” Simphiwe said.
He added he was not aware of any business people who were willing to help Zuma financially.
Simphiwe said when Zuma was forced to resign, the family had hoped that he would spend his retirement time with them.
“It pains us that such things (trial) are happening."
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa told Parliament that on Thursday he would provide answers on the legal basis for the state to foot Zuma’s legal bill in his case related to the arms deal.
The office of the State Attorney had revealed that R15.3million was incurred on behalf of Zuma in connection with the spy tapes report.
Ramaphosa also said there was an agreement between Zuma and the government that the former president would pay if he loses the case.
Opposition parties are set to take the agreement entered into between Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki to court, if Ramaphosa continues to fulfil it.
The Thabo Mbeki Foundation on Sunday said the former president would not at this stage comment on the agreement.
Mbeki’s spokesperson Thami Ntenteni said they would ask Ramaphosa to lead the process on the legal bill matter and give an answer like he did in Parliament.
“Mr Mbeki is no longer the president, so it would be premature to express a view on this matter.
“The current president of the country is already dealing with this matter, so at this stage there is nothing that links him (Mbeki).
"Whatever decision he (Mbeki) may have taken on this issue at the time, he would have done that as the president of the country. Now the Presidency will deal with it,” Ntenteni said.
Freedom Under Law’s Johann Kriegler, a retired judge of the Constitutional Court, said Zuma’s trial could take years to finalise.
“Certainly it is not going to be finalised speedily, that you can be sure certain of; it could take years. I suggest that neither you nor your readers get impatient, because the law works slowly even if people don’t try to slow it down,”he said.
Zuma charged, but graft won't end overnight
He envisaged Zuma’s legal teams arguing that the trial was unfair to Zuma because it had taken so long to return to the courts.
Kriegler said it was common for the state to pay for its employee's legal fees if that employee was charged with a crime allegedly committed while exercising his or her official duties.
“If it turns out that you were not actually exercising your public duties, but you were promoting your private interests, you will have to refund the state the money it had spent paying for your legal representation,” Kriegler added.
But there appears to be sympathy for Zuma in some quarters of the governing party.
ANC Youth League secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza said the league would rally behind Zuma because the case was politically motivated.
“We are talking about charges that have been delayed for more than 10 years and they are only now being reinstated,” Nzuza said.
He added that the ANCYL had not yet discussed programmes to support Zuma.
The ANCYL's KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Mandla Shange said since the league believed in Zuma’s innocence, “it would be important that the league support him”.
“We support the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority because it would enable him (Zuma) to clear his name, moving forward.
“The sooner the trial is over, the better, because this would assist us as we are prepare for next year’s elections,” he said.
He believed that Zuma would still have time to campaign for the elections on behalf of the ANC.
“He (Zuma) has committed himself to campaign for the ANC,” said Shange.
An NGO, the SA Native Forum, which is fighting for a permanent stay of prosecution for Zuma, claimed his rights were violated by former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka.
The forum’s lawyer, Lucky Thekisho, said Ngcuka had violated Zuma’s rights by pronouncing that there was a prima facie case, but that it was not winnable.
“Why not charge (him) when there is a prima facie case, as it is not for you to judge if it is winnable or not? It is for the court to pronounce that after you've proved your case. You can't be the prosecutor and the judge at the same time."