22 March 2018

South Africa: Cyril - Presidency Will Continue to Pay Zuma's Legal Fees As Agreed

Photo: GCIS
Former President Jacob Zuma

The Presidency will continue to pay the legal fees of former president Jacob Zuma based on a 2006 agreement, unless a court reviews the arrangement and sets it aside.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in two responses issued on Thursday, replied to both the EFF and the DA regarding the decision to pay for Zuma's legal fees in his corruption trial since 2006.

The EFF last week wanted to know on what legal provisions the 2006 agreement was based on, while the DA wanted to know if the agreement would continue now that Zuma was no longer president, and is set to face the charges again.

In response to the DA, the Presidency said that successive presidents assume the obligations that were undertaken by their predecessors upon taking office.

"The Presidency is therefore bound by that decision and must continue paying for Mr Zuma's legal fees on the basis that it undertook to do so until such time as the decision is reviewed and set aside by a court."

In a parliamentary reply to the EFF, the Presidency clarified that the 2006 agreement was based on section 3 of the State Attorney Act of 1957, read in conjunction with Treasury's regulations at the time.

Conditions for refund

The state attorney essentially, could use discretion to grant such requests, as was made by Zuma, in cases where the state was not party to a matter, but "interested or concerned in", or it was "in the public interest to provide such representation to a government official".

"The acts on the basis of which it is alleged that the former president committed criminal offences took place during his tenure as a government official, both at provincial and later at national level," the reply read.

Zuma was MEC for economic affairs in KwaZulu-Natal at the time the payments in question were allegedly made by arms company Thint, and later became deputy president.

In addition, the justice department took into account section 12 of the then applicable Treasury regulations, issued in terms of the Public Finance Management Act.

Those regulations stipulate that the person must provide an obligation to refund the state if any loss is found to have been incurred when an official was acting outside the course and scope of his employment.

"For this reason, the state attorney decided that it was appropriate to grant the request of the former president, subject to the condition that he make an undertaking (which he did) to refund monies thus spent, should it be found that he acted in his personal capacity and own interest in the commission of the alleged offences."

More than R15m spent

Ramaphosa also said the Presidency could not find the original written agreement but had copies of Zuma's undertaking to pay back the money, signed in 2006 and 2008.

The Presidency stressed that it did not believe the state should pay for the legal expenses of individuals if they are found to have acted on strictly personal grounds and are found to have committed an offence.

Last week, Ramaphosa confirmed that R7.5m was spent between 2006 and the withdrawal of the charges in 2009.

Since 2009, an additional R7.8m had been spent fighting the DA's nine-year battle to have the charges reinstated.

Meanwhile, National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams on Friday announced that the National Prosecuting Authority would go ahead with the prosecution of Zuma on 16 charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering.

It brought to an end a nine-year battle by the DA to have Zuma face charges after they were "irrationally" dropped by former NDPP Mokotedi Mpshe in 2009, as ruled by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in 2016.

Ramaphosa promised that the agreement would be made available in the upcoming court proceedings.

Source: News24

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