The state will carry on covering former president Jacob Zuma’s legal fees until a court decides otherwise, the Presidency confirmed on Wednesday.
“We have always said there is an undertaking, we continue to honour that undertaking,” said Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko, in response to reports that Zuma’s legal fees are still being covered by the state.
Diko said the Presidency had filed a notice to abide by whatever the Gauteng North High Court decides in the DA’s application filed in late March to have the court set aside a 2006 Presidency agreement to cover the legal fees Zuma ran up for his criminal prosecution.
In March, it was revealed that R15.3-million had already been paid in the time he had been challenging the “spy tapes” matter — recordings of an apparent plot against him — as he faces charges related to allegedly accepting a bribe from French arms company Thales in the awarding of an arms deal.
This was after President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that the agreement, signed by Zuma under former president Thabo Mbeki, formed the basis for the decision to continue paying for Zuma’s legal fees in the spy tapes case.
Diko said that the Presidency filed a notice to say that it would abide by the decision of the court and would not challenge the outcome.
“So if the court says we shouldn’t pay, then we wouldn’t pay,” she told News24.
In the meantime, the Presidency has provided the additional information required ahead of the case in terms of what they were paying for, the agreement to pay and other supplementary information.
“SSo, there is no decision yet, taken either by the court or the Presidency, that has led to [a conclusion] that says that those fees must not [be] paid,” said Diko.
“That has always been the position of the Presidency.
“We filed a notice to abide by the decision of the court, in the meantime we continue to honour the undertaking that exists.
“We were very clear in our statement that we continue to honour this undertaking as it stands unless and until a court decides otherwise.”
She said she would find out how much had been spent to date.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Shaun Abrahams announced in March that the NPA would go ahead with the prosecution of Zuma on 16 charges, including corruption, money laundering and racketeering.
Former NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe dropped the charges in 2009, based on recordings, the “spy tapes”, which were presented to him by Zuma’s legal team.
The tapes were made up of recordings of telephone conversations between then-Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and former NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka, which Zuma’s legal team claimed showed political interference in the decision to charge him.
The charges were subsequently withdrawn, just before Zuma was sworn in for his first term as president. — News 24