Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
2 minute read
24 Mar 2018
5:01 am

DA goes to court over JZ’s legal fees

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

The opposition party and anticorruption lobby groups say it's unlawful for the state to pay for the former president to be involved in graft.

President Cyril Ramaphosa must take a firmer stance on the deal struck over his predecessor’s legal fees relating to the corruption allegations he now faces in court, according to anticorruption lobby groups.

Outa’s Wayne Duvenage argued that while the crimes former president Jacob Zuma was accused of related to his duties in public office, he should be held accountable in his personal capacity.

“We believe in the interest of this country that the president should send a strong message,” said Duvenage.

“The problem is that Ramaphosa is having to dance a very delicate political line on this matter. He doesn’t want to be seen as partaking in a witch-hunt and has to pander to party dynamics, and I can understand why. But that does not justify it … this is not a political matter, this is a legal and a tax matter.”

Yesterday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) filed court papers seeking an order that declares the state’s payment of all the legal fees for Zuma unlawful.

“It is abundantly clear from the reply that Zuma’s application for legal assistance was for the criminal trial, not the R15.3 million already spent on the civil trial brought by the DA and fought over the better part of a decade. The criminal trial has yet to begin,” the party’s federal chair, James Selfe, said in a statement.

This was after Ramaphosa, in a written reply to the party, said why a deal was struck for the state to incur the former president’s legal fees.

Ramaphosa said the crimes Zuma was accused of committing were in regard to his duties as a parliamentary official.

Corruption Watch director David Lewis said there was no doubt that it was unfair for the state to pay Zuma’s legal fees in court because the allegations involved were not in his official capacity in terms of the corruption allegations.

“If he is found to be not guilty, the cost will be paid for him, I would imagine, by the state in some form of a court order.

“If he is guilty, why must the state pay for him being involved in corruption?” he asked.

“On the spy tapes issue, he obstructed a ruling for a long time and then he later admitted he was wrong. He conceded the point that was made against him and he has cost the taxpayer enough already.”

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