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

Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor welcomed Wednesday’s unanimous judgment by the full bench of the Pretoria High Court, which ordered that President Jacob Zuma personally pay the costs of his unsuccessful application to interdict the then public protector’s State of Capture report.

The court found that the President’s conduct during the litigation amounted to an abuse of judicial process‚ which required more than an ordinary punitive costs order. The court held that the taxpayer could not be burdened with paying the costs of the unreasonable and unnecessary litigation‚ said Mentor in a statement summarising the judgment‚ issued by her lawyers‚ Webber Wentzel attorneys.

Mentor, along with former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and former Cabinet spokesperson Themba Maseko, had opened with the influence the Guptas had on Zuma, revealing that they had offered her a Cabinet position.

At the time, Mentor handed her statements detailing allegations of the existence of a corrupt relationship between the Gupta family and Zuma directly to the Hawks.

The court found that Zuma’s application was based on self-created urgency and that his overall conduct was unreasonable. The President was found to be personally liable for the costs of the litigation on an attorney-client scale. The costs of the litigation are to be calculated from October 14 2016.

Her lawyers said, "Ms Mentor thanks the courts for remaining a voice of reason and a beacon of hope to our people."

Reacting to the same judgement, the lobby group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said it is relieved that taxpayers do not have to pay for the President’s two failed attempts to stop the then public protector’s State of Capture report and the inquiry she recommended.

"For too long, the President has used public funds to fight his personal battles‚" Ben Theron‚ Outa’s chief operating officer‚ said in a statement on Wednesday. "Taxpayers’ money should be used to provide services to the South African public and not to enrich the Zuma power elite."

Wednesday’s two judgments by the High Court in Pretoria are a significant step in opposing and reversing state capture‚ said Theron.

"Not only must the President personally pay the costs of two legal actions arising from his attempts to frustrate the report and the commission of inquiry it recommended‚ but the long-awaited‚ independent inquiry into state capture must now be appointed."

The court found that the President’s conduct during the litigation amounted to an abuse of judicial process‚ which required more than an ordinary punitive costs order

"Today’s landmark decisions follow Friday’s judgment‚ also by Judge Mlambo‚ which also went against the President‚ and which referred to the President’s delaying tactics to frustrate any case against him. That matter cost both Shaun Abrahams and his predecessor Mxolisi Nxasana the job of National Director of Public Prosecutions and blocked Zuma from appointing the replacement as he is conflicted due to the looming criminal charges against him," said Theron.

"Outa hopes that these three judgments will now encourage genuine action to overcome state capture‚ with an independent, full judicial inquiry, and the appointment of a chief prosecutor, who will clean up the National Prosecuting Authority and get the much-delayed state-capture cases under way."

The EFF also welcomed Thursday’s judgment, saying Zuma must face the consequences for using taxpayers’ money to defend personal wrongdoing.

The party’s spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: "The important lesson the court is teaching is that public representatives must always distinguish between personal and public interests. This separation becomes blurred when those who rule are either dictators or corrupt individuals seeking to protect or defend wrongdoing by using taxpayers’ money to engage in expensive litigation."

Ndlozi said Zuma had engaged in expensive litigation not to defend the public interest but himself. "This was so in matters like that of Nkandla, where he used taxpayers’ money to challenge the [then] public protector’s remedial action that he must personally pay back the money inappropriately used to build himself a mansion."

"We call on Zuma to immediately comply with the directive of the court and personally pay all the costs of the litigation. He must waste no time and no single taxpayer’s cent to appeal a clear and cogent judgment."

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