Zuma to pay his own legal costs if he is found guilty of the charges against him, says Ramaphosa
On Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa provided more details of the agreement his predecessor Jacob Zuma entered into with the state to cover his legal costs.
Zuma faced several legal battles during his controversial presidency, and the legal issues are far from over with National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams due to announce a decision on whether corruption charges against the former president should be reinstated in the next day or so.
In his maiden Q&A session in the National Assembly, Ramaphosa was grilled by opposition MPs on Zuma’s legal costs, among other matters.
Responding to a question from EFF leader Julius Malema, Ramaphosa revealed that the government had contributed a total of R15.3m towards Zuma’s legal costs since 2006. Of this amount, approximately R7.5m was spent between 2006 and the withdrawal of the corruption charges against Zuma in 2009. The state had paid a total R7.8m on Zuma’s legal costs since 2009.
Ramaphosa explained that Zuma had entered into an agreement with the government that the money would be paid back if he is found to have been personally responsible for the crimes he was accused of.
Malema asked what law or policy the government relied on to cover Zuma’s legal costs. He said according to the EFF’s calculations the state had actually spent about R64m on Zuma’s legal fees, including the Nkandla matter and the spy tapes case.
Ramaphosa said that Zuma had faced the charges while occupying a government position. "The agreement covers that for those who are charged … and when the court finalises [the matters], we will be able to make a determination on how these legal costs will be dealt with."
Malema insisted that Ramaphosa explain what legal provisions were relied on in reaching an agreement with Zuma. Ramaphosa said in preparing for the answer the presidency had focused on the existing agreement between the state and Zuma.
"We did not go further to look at legal provisions or policy. An agreement was entered into between the former president and ourselves and it’s a signed agreement … We are bound by agreements and this agreement still stands …we will keep an eye on processes of the case."
Ramaphosa said he would provide more details on the legal provisions within a week.
During a Q&A session in Parliament late in 2017, Zuma suggested that he was entitled by law to have the state pay his legal costs, saying: "If [the litigations] were at the instance of the President, then you can say you are wasting money. The President has been defending himself. You have the state to pay your expenses as any other person employed by government … the state pays. I do not keep any record [of the payments]; the state does not come and say this is how much we have paid."
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said on Wednesday that the party had begun the legal process of ensuring Zuma personally pays back his R15.3m legal bill. "We now know what that cost the public: more than R15m. Zuma abused legal process, employing every [delaying] tactic possible to drag this matter out, and to avoid his day in court. So much so, that Judge President, Dunstan Mlambo, deemed Zuma a ‘reckless and unreasonable litigant’ in a judgment handed down last year."
"It appears that this R15.3m in legal fees was spent irregularly and unlawfully, as the case relates Jacob Zuma in his personal capacity, for crimes he allegedly committed before he was president," Maimane continued. "He was not a respondent in that case in his capacity as President of the Republic of SA. As such, this R15.3m spent by the Presidency ought to have been paid personally by Jacob Zuma."