He's EFFed. Zuma's court fight kitty under major threat
Malema's cleverly crafted challenge to Zuma's funding looks set to end his hopes of continuing his legal battles
Former president Jacob Zuma’s legal campaign to fight his corruption prosecution appears to be in disarray – mainly, it would appear, because its funding is under major threat.
The National Prosecuting Authority on Wednesday confirmed that Zuma had missed his own deadline to challenge the decision by prosecutions boss Shaun Abrahams to pursue the corruption case against him.
Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, did not respond to questions about whether the former president would continue with that application, given the uncertainty that surrounds if and how such court action would be funded.His silence may have a lot to do with a cleverly crafted court bid by the Economic Freedom Fighters to challenge the continued funding of Zuma’s legal fees.
While the Democratic Alliance is challenging a 2006 “deal” between Zuma and the state attorney to fund the costs of his defence, the EFF has gone further, seeking an order forcing the lawyers paid as part of that deal to pay back the money.
That application sends a clear message to any lawyer who may be considering taking on the former president’s case: If your fees are being paid by the state, you may very well have to pay them back.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has already suggested that he may opt to stay out of these legal fees battles, abiding by the decision taken by the court and leaving Zuma to fight his own case. The president on Tuesday made it clear that the state would not fund the legal costs of suspended SARS commissioner Tom Moyane’s defence to misconduct charges.
And Zuma faces an uphill battle in convincing a court that there is a legal basis for the continued funding of his so-called Stalingrad campaign.
EFF leader Julius Malema believes taxpayers have already spent “in excess of R32-million” to fund Zuma’s multiple unsuccessful court applications, all of which were aimed at attacking the validity of the case against him, “and more payments are expected to be made in the future”.
Like the Democratic Alliance, Malema says it’s apparent that the charges Zuma stands accused of have nothing to do with his official functions – and, therefore, he isn’t entitled to state funding of his defence.He further argues that Zuma’s multimillion-rand legal funding violates the constitutional principle of equality before the law.
“It is apparent that no accused person of ordinary means could have pursued this kind of Stalingrad tactical and technical litigation, in the face of such poor prospects of success, and suffering so many adverse costs orders along the way. Mr Zuma was able only to do so because he (and his legal representatives) felt confident that the state would, without question, pay not only their own fees, but also those of any counterparties’ representatives whose costs Mr Zuma may be ordered to pay,” Malema said.
“Ordinary litigants are required to be circumspect and responsible in deciding whether to institute or oppose an application or an appeal. Mr Zuma, however, was not inhibited by such sobriety ... The state attorney apparently gave Mr Zuma and Hulley Inc a blank cheque to wage a 12-year war of attrition against the NPA, and then the DA, with little or no prospects of ultimate success, but with total certainty of delay.”And it was exactly that line of reasoning that informed the North Gauteng High Court’s decision to force Zuma to personally pay the R10-million legal costs attached to his futile bids to interdict the release of, and later review, then public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report.
If that case is anything to go by, it may be tough for the former president to convince the courts that he is entitled to the untrammeled funding he has become used to.
The EFF is now seeking an order that both Zuma and Hulley pay back the money spent on the former president’s legal costs within six months – plus interest.
The Democratic Alliance has already launched a review of the 2006 decision to fund Zuma’s defence against his corruption case, and want him to be ordered to pay back what has already been spent on his legal campaign to avoid prosecution. The state spent over R15-million funding Zuma’s unsuccessful bid to defend the NPA’s 2009 withdrawal of all the charges against him.
After eight year of legal battles, his lawyers admitted in the Appeal Court that the NPA’s decision was legally indefensible.
Both the DA and the EFF are also fighting for access to all documents linked to Zuma’s legal funding of his defence. They have both suggested that certain key documents have been withheld from them.