Malema has ‘personal vendetta’ against Zuma
Bid to have funding for former president's defence withdrawn influenced by politics more than principle, lawyer claims
An EFF bid to block the graft-accused former president Jacob Zuma from getting the state to foot his legal bill smacks of a personal vendetta, according to his lawyer.
This is why Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema is trying to block continued state funding for Zuma's corruption trial defence.
“The (EFF’s) pursuit against Mr Zuma is undoubtedly influenced by politics more than principle – if not a personal vendetta of Mr Malema,” Zuma's lawyer Lugisani Mantsha said in court papers filed on Friday.
“This is evidenced by the (EFF’s) constant pronouncements of labelling Mr Zuma a criminal and demanding that he be imprisoned.”
He adds that stopping state funding of Zuma’s defence now would “interfere with Mr Zuma’s fair trial rights”.“lt would simply be unfair to order that the funding that has supported his defence against these vicious allegations is withdrawn at this stage when he is starting to prepare for the proceedings.”
Mantsha was responding to a legal bid by the EFF to overturn a 2006 deal between Zuma, the state attorney and then president Thabo Mbeki to pay the costs of Zuma’s defence in his corruption trial. Under that deal, Zuma agreed to pay the money spent on his legal fees if he was convicted.
Zuma is embroiled in court battles with both the EFF and the Democratic Alliance, who want to stop the state from continuing to foot the former president’s legal bill. In his papers responding to the DA earlier this month, Zuma's lawyer said it was only logical that he would get state funding for his legal fees.
The EFF argues that Zuma was not legally entitled to such funding, and wants him and his former attorney, Michael Hulley, to repay the millions spent on multiple fruitless challenges to his prosecution.
Mantsha says the application is “misconceived” since the corruption Zuma is accused of is directly linked to his official role and position in government – and he is therefore entitled to receive state funding for his defence.
Zuma is facing charges relating to his relationship with his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who was convicted of keeping the then deputy president of the ANC and later deputy president of SA on a corrupt retainer. In exchange for multiple payments, Zuma allegedly used his power and position to further Shaik’s business interests.Zuma also stands accused of accepting a R500,000-a-year bribe, facilitated by Shaik, from French arms company Thint in exchange for his protection of the company from an investigation into the multibillion-rand Arms Deal.
According to Mantsha: “The allegations are self-evidently that Mr Zuma abused or inappropriately used his official powers and duties for the benefit of Shaik, his companies and the companies which allegedly attempted to or bribed him”.
Mantsha says the EFF “seems to be blind-sighted by its own antipathy towards (Zuma), as a result of which it fails to see the obvious”.“It has become customary for the (EFF) to seek from our courts jurisprudence that applies to (Zuma) alone as opposed to the rest of society.”
Mantsha further argued that the EFF’s challenge to the state funding Zuma’s defence has been launched far too late, as Malema – once one of Zuma’s close allies – should have known as early as 2008 that he had been granted such state funding.
“I admit that Mr Malema is not bringing this application personally, but that the EFF – his party – is. However, he had knowledge of the decision(s) to fund Mr Zuma when his party was formed and if he was then interested he could have questioned the decision as far back as July 2013 or soon thereafter.“The EFF’s contention that it only knew of the decision later or became curious of Mr Zuma’s affordability of the legal costs in February 2018, is simply untrue. It is intended to mislead this court. That certainly cannot be.”
Mantsha later adds: “One can only assume that the reason and the timing of the application is to ensure that Mr Zuma is not focused on the criminal matter and that he does not have resources to conduct same.”
The DA and EFF’s legal challenges to Zuma’s legal funding will be heard next month.