News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
10 Nov 2018
6:00 am

Zuma’s court defeat ‘a warning for other litigation-happy officials’

Ilse de Lange

The ruling 'showed the court would not hesitate to intervene and make politicians pay for their sins, instead of letting taxpayers cough up.'

Former South African president Jacob Zuma appears in the High Court of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 27 July 2018. EPA-EFE/PHIL MAGAKOE / POOL

Former president Jacob Zuma’s litigation frenzy may have finally come to an end and, according to a legal expert, his court defeat yesterday should be a warning to other state officials who want taxpayers to foot their legal bills that they may be held personally liable.

A full bench of the High Court in Pretoria yesterday dismissed the former president’s application for leave to appeal against their ruling that he must personally pay his legal costs on a punitive scale.

The only way Zuma could avoid paying for the wasted legal costs of his abortive attempts to overturn former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s state capture report was a petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal or a Constitutional Court application, according to Dr Llewelyn Curlewis, a senior lecturer in criminal and procedural law at the University of Pretoria.

However, he added Zuma had a slim chance of success, especially as the ruling was from a full bench of the high court.

Curlewis said the ruling also showed the court would not hesitate to intervene and make politicians pay for their sins, instead of letting taxpayers cough up for ill-considered court applications.

In December last year, the court ordered the then president to appoint a commission of inquiry into state capture and to personally pay the legal costs of his abortive applications to stop the report’s release and overturn the remedial action. The court said Zuma was trying to protect himself, as he was implicated in the report, the applications were ill-advised and the public should not have to pay the legal bill.

In January, Zuma appointed a commission to investigate allegations of state capture, but resigned and was replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the country just a month later.

Zuma may also be ordered to pay for his defence in his corruption and money laundering trial, which was postponed to month end, and repay between R15 and R32 million spent on legal battles to prevent his prosecution.

A full bench of the High Court in Pretoria this week reserved judgment in applications by the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters to force Zuma to pay.

ilsedl@citizen.co.za

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