Yesterday, the State Attorney revealed in a letter to the Democratic Alliance (DA) that the Presidency has to date spent a total of R15 300 250 of public funds on former President Jacob Zuma’s defence in his corruption charges case.
This refers to all legal costs pertaining to the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) decision to drop charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering brought against Jacob Zuma over a decade ago.
From the outset, Jacob Zuma’s actions made it clear that he would avoid his day in court at all costs - and he would do so with the financial backing of government. We now know what that cost the public: more than R15 million. Zuma abused legal process, employing every delay tactic possible, to drag this matter out, and to avoid his day in court.
So much so, that Judge President, Dunstan Mlambo, deemed Zuma a "reckless and unreasonable litigant" in a judgment handed down last year.
On several occasions, Jacob Zuma, the Presidency, and the Department of Justice refused to give a clear answer on the amount spent on his legal bills relating to these corruption charges. When I asked the former President this question in Parliament last year, he flatly refused to answer the question, and was unsurprisingly protected by the Speaker, Baleka Mbete. It is now clear why the President avoided answering this question.
We are pleased to finally have clarity as to how much public money Jacob Zuma used to fight his own personal legal battles, and keep himself out of jail.
It appears that this R15.3 million in legal fees was spent irregularly and unlawfully, as the case relates Jacob Zuma in his personal capacity, for crimes he allegedly committed before he was President. He was not a respondent in that case in his capacity as President of the Republic of South Africa. As such, this R15.3 million spent by the Presidency ought to have been paid personally by Jacob Zuma.
We have therefore today DA begun the legal process of ensuring that government retrieves this money directly from Jacob Zuma. Our legal team has written to the President of the Republic, Cyril Ramaphosa, requesting definitive answers to the following:
- On what basis does his office claim that the payments made by the Presidency in respect of Zuma’s personal legal fees are in line with legislation and specifically the State Attorney Act 56 of 1957;
- Media reports show that mention is made of an agreement that Jacob Zuma had with former President Thabo Mbeki on the payment of the legal fees, and that he shall repay in the event that he is found guilty of the charges. We require a copy of this agreement, if it exists, and an indication on what basis this perk was extended to Zuma;
- We would also like to receive confirmation as to whether the Presidency, or the Government, has again reached such an agreement with Zuma for the future costs in his upcoming trial. If any such agreement has been reached, on what basis and in terms of what legislation; and
- On what basis does the Presidency keep tabs on these expenses, specifically the millions of rands spent on Zuma’s personal litigation.
Upon receipt of his information, we will consider approaching the High Court for a declarator, asking that the payment of these monies in respect of Zuma’s personal cost be declared unlawful. Following this, we intend to seek an order to compel the Presidency to recover the R15.3 million of irregular and unlawful spending for Jacob Zuma’s benefit. We shall consider requesting the Court to act in a supervisory role in this regard.
The endless unlawful spending of public money on Jacob Zuma’s legal shenanigans must stop today. I will be seeking assurance from President Cyril Ramaphosa that government will close the taps on funding Jacob Zuma, and that he receives not another cent of public money to keep himself out of jail.
I want to assure South Africans that we will retrieve the people’s money from Jacob Zuma, and he will eventually have his day in court to answer to the 783 counts of fraud, corruption, money-laundering and racketeering against him. We will not relent in holding to account a man who wreaked havoc on our nation for almost a decade.