As former president Jacob Zuma prepares to return to court to face corruption charges‚ the Democratic Alliance has gone to court to force him to pay “tens of millions of rands” in state money it says has already been “wasted” on his personal legal battles.
The party also wants the North Gauteng High Court to block Zuma from receiving any more state funding for his defence.
Zuma’s legal team have indicated that they will fight this application‚ which could affect his ability to bring multiple civil challenges to the criminal case against him.
The cost of Zuma’s corruption case court battles currently stands at R32‚4 million. He has already been ordered to personally pay back an estimated R10 million in legal costs linked to his failed bids to challenge then public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report.
The DA want the full R32‚4-million – spent by the state on 12 cases that Zuma ultimately lost – to be repaid by Zuma to the National Treasury within three months of the high court ruling in its favour.
In papers filed at the North Gauteng High Court on Friday afternoon‚ the DA seek an order that the state is “not liable for legal costs incurred by (Mr Zuma) in his personal capacity in criminal prosecutions instituted against him‚ in any civil litigation related or incidental thereto or for any other associated legal costs”.
The DA also wants to order that any decision to fund Zuma’s legal fees be reviewed and set aside – with the party’s James Selfe arguing that it remains unclear if and how such decisions to fund Zuma’s legal battles were even made.
On Thursday‚ President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office informed the DA that the funding decision was based on the provisions of the State Attorneys Act.
But Selfe says this Act does not grant the president or state attorney the “authority to impose on the state the obligation to pay for Mr Zuma’s personal legal costs”.
Selfe says the crimes Zuma stands accused of were clearly allegedly committed in his personal capacity‚ and not his official one – and he is therefore not entitled to state funding.
“Mr Zuma has abused the courts to avoid public accountability‚ in defiance of the public interest‚” Selfe said‚ adding that this was evident in the fact that four costs orders had been made against the Presidency in the course of his Spy Tapes battles.
Selfe further argues that the state’s continued funding of Zuma’s legal fees amounted to a violation of the Public Finance Management Act – because such spending constituted “fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.