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Zuma legal fees: Judgment expected before end of court term

8th November 2018 BY: News24Wire
Former President Jacob Zuma
Former President Jacob Zuma

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has reserved judgment in an application brought by both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which sought to review the agreements between the Presidency and former president Jacob Zuma regarding legal costs incurred by him for his criminal prosecution.

Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba said: "We are going to postpone the matter sine die for judgment, and we will try by all means to have this judgment delivered by the end of this term."

Zuma's legal representative spent Wednesday morning trying to convince the full bench why the case should be dismissed, saying that there has been an undue delay to seek the review.

President Cyril Ramaphosa previously revealed that the State had already spent at least R15.3-million on Zuma’s legal fees.

Arguing on Zuma's behalf, advocate Thabani Masuku said: "There is no evidence of corruption involved between the State attorney, Mr (Michael) Hulley, and Mr Zuma," regarding the former president's fees.

Masuku argued that the applicants had failed to address why it took over 10 years to review the decision, adding that the DA knew about the funding as far back as September 2008 during a Parliamentary question session.

The EFF had earlier argued that it sought an order directing the former president and Hulley to pay back money spent by the State attorney in Zuma's legal battle.

It is the EFF's argument that the State attorney paid more than R25-million of public money to a private attorney firm, the Hulley and Associated Incorporated, for legal costs incurred by Zuma.

During proceedings on Wednesday, Judge Pieter Meyer told Masuku that Hulley had been appointed by the former president and did not have to account to the State attorney.

"They (Zuma attorney) did not obtain their instructions from the State attorney. There was no other evidence that the State was in control of the litigation," said.

'This it is not an ordinary litigant'

But Masuku said: "No, but I hope my lord is not suggesting that the funding control that the State attorney exercise is an insignificant form of control."

Masuku said: "The State attorney was paying the legal fees of Mr Zuma on the basis that he would refund the fees if found guilty."

Masuku said it was important for the State attorney's office to support state officials, irrespective of matter the charge they face.

On the EFF application, Masuku said the party should have known about Zuma's legal fees and that there was a duty for the party to explain their "unreasonable delay".

He said the EFF's argument suggesting that Zuma received preferential treatment did not "thrive" at all.

Masuku argued that Zuma was a president and not just an ordinary person.

"Mr Zuma was the president (and) this it is not an ordinary litigant," he said.

Judge Elizabeth Kubushi put it to Masuku that Section 3 (1) of the State Attorney Act authorises the performance of legal work, not funding.

'They followed no procedure'

But Masuku disputed this, saying the two were linked, adding that the office of the State attorney had assured the Presidency that the decision to fund was above board.

"It is competent for the office to give legal funding to the president," he argued.

Masuku also said that both the DA and EFF had claimed that the state funds were abused, but that their argument was without a "shred of evidence".

"We don’t know why they believe the figure is exorbitant," he said.

However, in responding to Masuku, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi said there was no procedure that was followed when Zuma's former attorney Hulley was appointed.

"They followed no procedure when they used the services of Mr Hulley," he said.

Ngcukaitobi said there was no evidence that the State attorney or the director general (as the accounting officer) ever scrutinised the work being done by Hulley - before paying each invoice and adverse costs order.

He added that the office had contravened the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

"They appointed the private attorney and we know they were not supposed to... the state should provide the services."

But Masuku said the EFF's arguments on the PFMA had no merit.

"State attorney are government attorneys – they don’t have to go through any procurement," he said. 

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EDITED BY: News24Wire
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