Public purse is Zuma’s ‘Stalingrad’ weapon: EFF, DA
Taxpayers’ money should not have been used to fight his legal battles, the parties argue
The North Gauteng High Court heard on Tuesday that the only way former president Jacob Zuma and his legal team were able to employ “Stalingrad” legal tactics by delaying his criminal case for more than a decade was because they had unlimited access to public funds. This was the argument forwarded by advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi who was representing the EFF as they joined the DA to review decisions taken by the state attorney and the presidency to pay Zuma’s personal legal fees.
The two parties want the decisions to be declared unlawful, be set aside and for Zuma to pay the National Treasury the amounts paid by the state towards his personal legal costs.
At the centre of the case is a decision this year by President Cyril Ramaphosa to continue funding Zuma’s defence in his criminal case unless a court decides otherwise.
The EFF and the DA have not only asked the court to stop this, but argue that the decision to have the state pay for Zuma’s legal defence is unlawful. They say taxpayers’ money should have not have been used to protect Zuma from facing the 18 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering.
The court heard how the figures given by Ramaphosa for how much the state paid for Zuma’s defence in his criminal case were inconsistent with the amounts previously given by former ministers of justice Bridgette Mabandla and Jeff Radebe. “While President Ramaphosa said approximately only R7.5m had been paid before the prosecution was discontinued on 6 April 2009, Minister Bridgett Mabandla said R9.6m had already been paid on 1 August 2008. There is a discrepancy of approximately R2m that has never been explained,” Ngcukaitobi told the court. He went on to tell the court that “while President Ramaphosa has said R7.8m has been spent since 2009 to date, that is even less than the R8.8m which minister Radebe said had been paid between the 2009 and 2012/ 13 financial years alone”.
The EFF said that by their calculations the state paid R32m for Zuma’s legal fees in his criminal case. Ngcukaitobi’s main argument to the court was that the decision to pay for Zuma’s legal fees was against the law – a case argued in detail by the DA. “There are strong allegations that there was no tender procedure followed, no deviations followed, no performance indicators, and the spend of the money was never monitored,” he said.
Ngcukaitobi denied claims by Zuma’s legal team that they were denying him his right to fair representation. “This is absurd. Mr Zuma is claiming that no accused person in South Africa can have access to the courts or a fair trial without the state attorney spending, on his or her behalf, millions of rands on private attorneys and two senior and three junior counsel, not only to present a criminal defence but to institute and oppose ... ancillary applications and appeals,” Ngcukaitobi argued.
Earlier on Tuesday, the DA made its case to the court through lawyer Sean Rosenberg who rubbished Zuma’s defence that the state had to pay for his legal fees because he was employed by the state at the time the alleged crime was committed and at the time he was charged.
“Mr Zuma stands accused of 18 serious criminal charges concerning the abuse of his public office and public power for personal gain, including a charge for racketeering, corruption, money laundering and 12 charges of fraud. It is alleged that Mr Zuma accepted 783 separate payments from Mr Shaik. The alleged payment and acts were solely for Mr Zuma’s benefit and had nothing to do with the business of the state. Mr Zuma did not act in furtherance of his official duties, he acted in pursuit of his own , selfish interest,” Roseberg told the court.
Zuma’s lawyer, Thabani Masuku, argued in response that the court should dismiss the DA and EFF’s application because they knew for years that the state was paying for Zuma’s defence but did nothing about it. Masuku argued that the DA should have reviewed the decision for the state attorney to pay Zuma’s legal fees when it was first made, as early as 2004. “The real reason for the DA’s application is to interfere with the financial arrangements made between the state and Mr Zuma to cover his impending trial,” he argued. The EFF further asked the court to hold Zuma’s lawyer at the time, Michael Hulley, responsible for R25m of the costs, but they later seemed to concede that it would be unreasonable for the court to make that finding. Arguments will continue on Wednesday.