Former president Jacob Zuma in Parliament. Picture: REUTERS
Former president Jacob Zuma in Parliament. Picture: REUTERS

Three months after leaving the highest office in the country, former president Jacob Zuma is said not to have the money to keep fighting his prosecution for fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering.

His lawyer, Michael Hulley, said on Tuesday that Zuma had terminated counsel’s brief. He said this was because of “the Presidency’s attitude” towards the application brought by the DA and uncertainty about whether the state would continue to fund his legal case.

“Until this question is determined by the courts, Mr Zuma simply does not have the means to engage with the court processes regarding his prosecution,” said Hulley.

Zuma left office in February with full benefits. He is entitled to his R2.87m annual salary for life, medical aid and his pension payout.

In March, the DA lodged a court application to have Zuma pay back to the Treasury the R15.3m spent trying to avoid him having to face 16 charges.

Earlier in 2018, in response to a question in Parliament, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the state was paying Zuma’s legal costs because the allegations against him had come about while he was in the employ of the government.

He also spoke of an agreement between Zuma and the state that bound the state to pay his legal fees, which he would repay if found guilty.

Ramaphosa and Zuma are respondents in the DA’s application. Zuma has indicated he will oppose the application.

However, the Presidency said on Monday it would not challenge the courts if they found that Zuma must foot his own legal bills and pay back the money already spent fighting the corruption charges.

The Presidency filed notice in the High Court in Pretoria indicating that it would abide by the court’s decision in the DA’s application.

Zuma made his first court appearance on the corruption charges in the High Court in Durban in April 2018.

The matter was provisionally postponed to June 8.

During his first appearance, Zuma’s legal representatives told the court they were planning to lodge an application to review the decision taken by National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams to prosecute him.

However, this has not been done. It was understood at the time that should Zuma’s application to review the decision to prosecute him fail, he would approach the courts in a bid to get a permanent stay of prosecution.

Even if Zuma does not have the money to pay for legal counsel, he will have to appear in court in June and it will be up to the presiding officer to decide on a way forward.

Zuma could apply for his corruption matter to be provisionally withdrawn or struck off the roll until the funding matter is sorted out. Asked what Zuma would do when he next appeared in court, Hulley said the matter was under consideration in consultation with the former president.

Zuma has been pushing with a Stalingrad defence of deploying every possible legal device to stop his prosecution proceedings as he faces one count of racketeering‚ two counts of corruption‚ one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud.

This is in relation to 783 questionable payments connected with the arms deal‚ over which Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik‚ was jailed for corruption.

At the April court appearance, the state said it was ready to go to trial and that the court roll was open for the trial to start on November 12.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

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