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Zuma given another R20m for legal fees

Staff Reporter

The treasury has given President Jacob Zuma an extra R20m to cover his legal costs but no breakdown has been given on where the funds are headed.

President Jacob Zuma. (Yolande Snyman)

The treasury has given President Jacob Zuma an extra R20-million to cover his legal costs, the Saturday Star reported.

The paper reported that a document released on Thursday by the treasury stated that the presidency would receive an extra R28-million – R20-million of which would go towards "legal and executive service costs".

Chairperson of Parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) Themba Godi said his committee had requested a breakdown of the legal costs but was unsuccessful.

The committee had a meeting with treasury officials three months ago regarding unauthorised expenditure in three departments – including the presidency.

Zuma’s legal fees had come to roughly R5-million in the year before he was elected president, Scopa heard in 2010.

It was believed this was for the lawyers who acted for Zuma as he battled fraud and corruption charges.

Godi said government did not have a "bottomless pit of cash" and that it all boiled down to poor planning.

"One would expect the office of the president to lead by example," he told the newspaper.

"But I understand there might have been unavoidable circumstances."

Legal troubles
The bump in funds comes as the presidency's legal costs have soared over the past three year, the Saturday Star reported.

Zuma has faced a host of legal challenges including the review of his appointment of Menzi Simelani as national director of public prosecutions, his bid to extend chief justice Sandile Ngcobo's term of office and his efforts to force the Goodman Gallery to remove The Spear painting which depicted him naked.

The paper quoted DA leader Helen Zille saying: “It is wrong. In fact it can be described as outrageous. The money is spent on deliberate delaying tactics to ensure that the president never has to answer a case in court. If he complied with the rule of law and went to court, his defence would cost less than the endless filibustering which has gone on for eight years now.”

She said the latest display of “contempt for the courts” was the refusal by Zuma’s lawyers to hand over the spy tapes.

“It is unheard of in a democracy that the president’s lawyers should be in contempt of court,” Zille told the Saturday Star.

Presidency spokesperson Harold Maloka told the paper that the R20-million had to be looked at in the context that Zuma was often listed as a respondent in cases that did not involve him or his office directly.

“In these cases the presidency has to respond. He is listed as a respondent because he is in charge of the whole of the government ... So we told the treasury that our legal costs are going up and that’s why it is coming in the adjustment. It’s not something we anticipated.”

Maloka said a breakdown of the legal costs could only be provided at the end of the financial year.

Spy tapes
The revelation comes as Zuma's lawyer Michael Hulley on Friday asked the North Gauteng High Court to clarify what records regarding the so-called spy tapes should be released.

"I think for me, sight is lost of the fact of what the reduced record means," Hulley told Sapa.

Following court action by the Democratic Alliance, the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered the NPA to produce a record of the "documents and materials" that informed the decision by then acting prosecutions chief Mokotedi Mpshe to drop charges of racketeering, corruption, fraud and money laundering against Zuma before the 2009 election.

Hulley said their notice was to set out what should be considered the reduced record of decision.

"One must focus on what's the record and what's the reduced record."

He said Zuma was seeking to block the release of part of the record based on confidentiality, which he was allowed to do under the Supreme Court of Appeal order.

DA federal executive chairperson James Selfe said the party viewed the notice with "great consternation".

"What this notice seems to imply is that President Zuma will now dispute the meaning of what the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered the NPA to produce."

He accused Zuma of attempting to delay releasing the transcript of the tapes until after the ANC's national elective conference in Mangaung in December.

Hulley defended Zuma's move and accused the DA of artificially generating controversy over the court's decision.

"The brouhaha that keeps undermining what the court has already ruled on is of no benefit to us or anyone else," he said.

The NPA has said while the court had ordered it to furnish the reduced record to the DA, this was contingent on Zuma's lawyers not objecting on the grounds of confidentiality.

Zuma's lawyers did object, so the NPA could not hand over the record.

The tapes supposedly contain conversations that alluded to impropriety in the course of the investigation into corruption charges against Zuma in the arms deal case.

The conversations were given as the reason why the case against Zuma was tainted, resulting in charges against him and arms company Thint being dropped. – Additional reporting by Sapa

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