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Zuma v Democratic Alliance and Another (1028/2019) [2021] ZASCA 39

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Zuma v Democratic Alliance and Another (1028/2019) [2021] ZASCA 39

13th April 2021

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Click here to read the full judgment on Saflii

[1]     This is an application for leave to appeal and, if granted, the determination of the appeal itself. It concerns decisions purportedly made in terms of s 3 of the State Attorney Act 56 of 1957 (the Act)[1] to pay State funds to a private firm of attorneys for legal costs incurred by the applicant, Mr Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, in respect of court proceedings relating - or incidental - to his prosecution for corruption and related offences. The respondents, invoking the constitutional principle of legality, sought orders: (a) reviewing and setting aside the decisions and each of the related payments; and, (b) directing Mr Zuma to pay back the money.

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[2]     The two judges who considered the application referred it for oral argument in terms of the provisions of s 17(2)(d) of the Superior Courts Act 10 of 2013. Different considerations come into play when considering an application for leave to appeal as compared to adjudicating the appeal itself. As to the former, it is for an applicant to convince the court that he or she has a reasonable prospect of success on appeal. Success in an application for leave to appeal does not necessarily lead to success in the appeal. Because the success of the application for leave to appeal depends, inter alia, on the prospects of eventual success of the appeal itself, the argument on the application, to a large extent, had to address the merits of the appeal.[2]

[3]     Inasmuch as the appeal raises a point of statutory interpretation, the application had to succeed. On that score, the high court has spoken and, absent an appeal, the judgment will continue to apply. Future litigants are entitled to the benefit of this Court’s view on the question. In the circumstances, we considered it appropriate to grant leave to Mr Zuma to proceed with the appeal. That opened the door to a full consideration of the substantive merits of the appeal itself.

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[4]     In December 1994, Mr Zuma was elected the National Chairperson of the African National Congress (the ANC) and chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. After the 1994 elections, he was appointed to serve in the first democratic government of the Republic of South Africa. Initially, he served at a provincial level as the Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) for Economic Affairs and Tourism in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.  Following the 1999 general elections, Mr Zuma was appointed the Deputy President of the country. He ascended to the Presidency on 9 May 2009 - a position that he occupied until his resignation on 14 February 2018.

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