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

Former president Jacob Zuma was not reckless in instituting an application to have the State of Capture report reviewed and should not be liable to pay for the legal bills of the failed bid, the high court in Pretoria has heard.

A full bench heard an application on Thursday for leave to appeal against the costs order in December 2017 that Zuma pay R10m in legal fees in his personal capacity after the court had labelled his review application "reckless".

Zuma could face more legal bills if the court does not find in his favour as all of the respondents, which include the DA, the EFF, United Democratic Movement, Congress of the People and Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, have asked for costs against him in his personal capacity.

Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane argued that Zuma might have been wrong, but was not reckless in asking the court to rule on the remedial action recommended by former public protector Thuli Madonsela, after he took issue with being ordered to establish a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture headed by a judge chosen by the chief justice, normally a function of the president. Sikhakhane said Zuma only wanted to clear up the constitutionality of the protector’s remedial action.

Advocate Steven Budlender, for the DA, said Zuma had asked for the review application, which had the effect that he would not have the judicial commission instituted on the public protector’s terms, but also not have her investigate it.

Zuma wanted to decide who should be investigated, as well as what the terms were, Budlender said. It showed Zuma had acted in "bad faith" and had brought the review application, which led to a delay in the establishment of the commission of inquiry, "for ulterior purposes".

Budlender said Zuma did not tell the court what wrong principle was used, or whether the court acted unjudicially, which was what would have to be dealt with by the appellate court when dealing with costs.

Judgment was reserved.

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