Today the people of South Africa have achieved a great victory in the battle for accountability. The North Gauteng High Court has ruled that the state will not fund Jacob Zuma’s legal fees, in his defence of his role in the corruption that has afflicted our country. And it has ordered Jacob Zuma to pay back the money already incurred by the state for his pending cases.
~ Mmusi Maimane – Leader of the Democratic Alliance
Christine Botha: Acting Director, Centre for Constitutional Rights
13 December 2018
In an important judgment issued by the North Gauteng High Court today, the constitutional principle of accountability, as well as the protection of the Rule of Law, were reaffirmed. This judgment affirmed that valuable and scarce State resources should not be diverted on a grand scale to finance the defence of public officials charged with corruption.
The High Court held that the State is not liable to pay Mr Zuma’s personal legal costs in the criminal prosecutions against him. These relate to fraud, money laundering, corruption and racketeering. His personal legal costs are estimated to be over R16 million. The High Court also declared the Presidency and State Attorney’s decision to cover Mr Zuma’s legal costs – incurred in his personal capacity to defend these criminal prosecutions and litigation related thereto – to be invalid and set aside.
Both the DA and the EFF took this matter on review separately, but the High Court made a joint order. Importantly, there was a specific request for the full disclosure of amounts paid by the State towards Mr Zuma’s personal legal costs. To date, the full amount remains undisclosed. This, despite various requests to the Presidency, the State Attorney and Mr Zuma. The High Court ordered the State Attorney to give a full and complete account of all legal costs paid by the State that were incurred by Mr Zuma in his personal capacity.
The State Attorney is ordered to take all necessary measures to recover such amounts, and must report back to the High Court within three months on steps taken – and those still to be taken – to recover the amounts from Mr Zuma.
This judgment confirms the constitutional principle of accountability. It further sends out a clear message to public officials – the State is not a cash cow to finance lavish criminal defence litigation. The High Court further emphasised that valuable State resources cannot be squandered recklessly, while the most vulnerable in our society are denied access to essential services.