Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS
Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

In an unprecedented move, President Jacob Zuma has been ordered to personally pay costs for an application he brought to interdict the release and finalisation of the public protector’s State of Capture report.

Gauteng judge president Dunstan Mlambo read out the unanimous judgment by a full bench in the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Zuma’s conduct in the litigation was described as "unreasonable’. In a cost order ahead of the main judgment, the court said the president persisted with litigation and fought the intervening parties when this could and should have been avoided. The judges found that the application was based on self-created urgency.

Mlambo said the president’s overall conduct had resulted in him being held personally liable for the costs in the interdict application, adding that a punitive costs order would not have been enough, as it would have burdened the taxpayer.

The president was ordered to pay costs after he dropped his interdict application at a late stage, and the intervening parties — including the DA, EFF, Congress of the People (Cope) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) — argued that he should be held personally responsible for costs, as any adverse findings in the report, which he wanted to interdict, was made against him as a person, and not against his office.

The intervening parties argued that Zuma should have paid for his own private attorneys, and that he should not have briefed the state attorney in the matter.

Mlambo pointed that Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Des van Rooyen, who also tried to interdict the release of the report, did not brief the state attorney, like Zuma did, but appointed private attorneys to deal with the matter.

Mlambo said all of the parties warned that they would seek punitive costs if the president did not drop the interdict application, after he conceded in answering papers, that if the report was finalised and signed, it must be released. This was rejected by the state attorney on behalf of the president and the application was only dropped at the 11th hour.

A second judgement to decide on Zuma's application for remedial action on the state of capture report was due to be delivered at 11.30am on Wednesday.

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