News / South Africa / Courts

Sipho Mabena
Premium Journalist
2 minute read
13 Apr 2021
1:55 pm

Jacob Zuma must pay back money spent on legal fees – SCA

Sipho Mabena

The court found that Zuma had no right to fund his personal legal battles with taxpayers money.

Jacob Zuma. Picture: Kim Ludbrook/AFP


Granting former president Jacob Zuma a blank cheque to pay private lawyers for his personal legal battles was not only shocking but also made possible by a web of maladministration and shrouded in secrecy.

This scathing finding was made on Tuesday by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in dismissing Zuma’s appeal against the earlier judgment that he must pay back the money spent on his personal legal costs.

In 2006 and again in 2008, Zuma’s lawyers submitted requests to the State Attorney for assistance with the legal costs of four counsel in his criminal cases.

But the high court later ruled that the state was not liable for the costs and Zuma must pay back the money.

His appeal at the SCA was opposed by the DA and EFF, but, according to the SCA judgement, it was only in March 2018 that the political parties became aware of the asserted legal basis for the funding.

This was only after President Cyril Ramaphosa replied to a parliamentary question.

“Until then the matter had been shrouded in secrecy. It was only after the review application had been launched that the full extent of the funding emerged. The SCA took a view that to have granted Zuma, who had been significantly enriched by a blank check to pay private lawyers is egregious,” the judgement reads.

The court found this was Zuma’s personal legal battle and he had no right to fund it with taxpayers money.

The DA welcomed the ruling, saying it took strong exception to any abuse of public funds by current or former public officials, including former presidents.

DA federal leader John Steenhuisen said Zuma’s tenure in office was disastrous for South Africa, its economy and hard-won democracy.

“We are still reeling from the effects of state capture and the hollowing out of public institutions that accompanied it. This a victory not for the DA alone, but for all South Africans, our Constitution and the rule of law,” he said.