President Cyril Ramaphosa is to study the merits of the DA’s court challenge to the state’s payment of former president Jacob Zuma’s legal fees. Only then will he decide if he will oppose it.
“The president will await the court challenge, look at the merits and then take a decision based on that,” Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said.
On Thursday, the Democratic Alliance announced that it would approach the court to set aside the decision to allow taxpayers’ money to be used to pay Zuma’s legal fees.
Ramaphosa explained that the deal struck between then president Thabo Mbeki and Zuma in 2006 was based on the provisions of the State Attorney Act.
Since then, Zuma has faced numerous legal challenges.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has decided to prosecute Zuma on 16 charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering, which are linked to 783 questionable payments.
The payments date back to his term in the KwaZulu-Natal government and his later ascension to the national office as the deputy president of the country.
The DA said Zuma’s application for legal assistance is related to the corruption trial he faced in 2009.
It was not related to the R15.3m he spent on a civil trial linked to the court battle for the release of transcripts of phone conversations, known as the “spy tapes”, which were used to secure the dropping of the corruption charges.
This was a battle brought to the courts by the main opposition party in a bid to have Zuma prosecuted.
“The president has not made a judgment call as far as the matter is concerned,” said Diko.
She added that the previous deal would remain enforceable and binding.
“That is until the courts conclude on the matter and say he acted in his capacity as an official or an individual, in which case should he be found guilty then he is liable.”
Another opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, which initially questioned Zuma’s legal fees in Parliament, has also rejected the response and called it “fundamentally and fatally flawed in both law and simple logic”.
The party said they also instructed lawyers to prepare a court application challenging the deal. It also declared that it would make sure that Zuma paid back the R15m for the legal costs and for all other payments to be halted with immediate effect.
The EFF has also requested that the correspondence and agreement between Zuma and Mbeki be made public.Diko said the president would still consult his lawyers on the matter, but had an understanding that it was privileged and confidential.
Meanwhile, the state attorney could essentially use discretion to grant such requests, as was made by Zuma, in cases where the state was not party to a matter, but “interested or concerned in”, or it was “in the public interest to provide such representation to a government official”.
“The acts on the basis of which it is alleged that the former president committed criminal offences took place during his tenure as a government official, both at provincial and later at national level,” the reply read.
Zuma was MEC for economic affairs in KwaZulu-Natal at the time the payments in question were allegedly made by arms company Thint, and later became deputy president.
In addition, the justice department took into account section 12 of the then applicable Treasury regulations, issued in terms of the Public Finance Management Act.
Those regulations stipulate that the person must provide an obligation to refund the state if any loss is found to have been incurred when an official was acting outside the course and scope of his employment.
The Presidency stressed that it did not believe the state should pay for the legal expenses of individuals if they are found to have acted on strictly personal grounds and are found to have committed an offence.
l National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams yesterday announced that the National Prosecuting Authority would go ahead with the prosecution of Zuma on 16 charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering.
It brought to an end a nine-year battle by the DA to have Zuma face charges after they were “irrationally” dropped by former NDPP Mokotedi Mpshe in 2009, as ruled by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in 2016.
Ramaphosa promised that the agreement would be made available in the upcoming court proceedings.-News24