Johannesburg - Former president Jacob Zuma is alleged to have made millions of rand from state capture, but this wealth might not help him now that he has to foot the bill for his own legal costs.
The High Court in Pretoria on Friday ruled that Zuma had to personally pay the court costs of his failed legal review of former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s directive instructing that a judicial commission of inquiry be appointed to probe state capture.
The decision was welcomed by opposition parties, who said it set a precedent not only for the embattled former president, but also other politicians who use frivolous legal challenges for their own gains.
For Zuma, the ruling could see the end of his infamous “Stalingrad” defence, where he has used taxpayer money to impede the various court battles he has been involved in.
“Now that there is the possibility of individuals paying their own costs, it is going to affect many leaders who saw this as a way of keeping justice at bay,” said political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni.
It is believed that Zuma’s legal costs relating to on Friday’s court decision could cost him R10 million.
Even if Zuma had the money to pay this from illegally gained activities, Fikeni said that it would be difficult for him to use this to pay his legal fees.
“The problem is that once the spotlight is on you, any transaction will be followed,” added Fikeni.
“So it is possible that those involved in state capture won’t be able to access those funds.”
Political analyst Daniel Silke said that Zuma would probably appeal the decision, although it would now have to be at his own cost.
“What this is is a moral victory for South Africans,” he said.
Opposition parties welcomed the court judgment and said it sent a strong message to ministers.
DA federal council chairperson James Selfe said: “Zuma’s motive in launching this litigation was to obfuscate the public protector’s findings and frustrate her remedial action, specifically to establish the state capture inquiry.
“He purposefully did not want this commission established because it would implicate him, his family and those politically connected to him.
"He subsequently and belatedly abandoned this contention and appointed the inquiry.”
African Christian Democratic Party leader the Reverend Kenneth Meshoe said that Zuma must pay for his cases, and this was a lesson for all ministers and government officials.
“South Africans should be grateful that we have a judicial system that does not favour a person because of their status. We believe he must pay for all the cases he is facing,” said Meshoe.
He said it was wrong for Zuma to expect the state to pay for his own problems.
Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said Zuma had abused his office by getting the state to settle his legal bills.
“The time has come for him to realise the government will not be responsible for his troubles in court.”
He said Cope fully agreed with the judgment that the former president must pay his legal costs from his own pocket.
The Saturday Star