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07 Nov 2018 07:22
"It's not just Zuma who will suffer (if the court sets aside his legal fees matter)," Advocate Thabani Masuku argued. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)
The Pretoria high court should dismiss the Democratic Alliance’s application to set aside the decision made by the office of the state attorney to fund former president Jacob Zuma’s legal fees, Zuma’s lawyers argued on Tuesday.
Advocate Thabani Masuku, representing Zuma, on Tuesday, told a full Bench that the DA failed to bring the case as far back as 2008.
“Dismiss the DA’s case on the basis of undue delay,” he said.
Masuku said it was clear that the DA knew that the legal costs for Zuma were paid by the state as far back as September 2008.
“What we have here is a situation where the (former) attorney, Mr (Michael) Hulley and Mr Zuma must give a full account of what happened 14 years ago.
“The unreasonable delay and the prejudice that arises from the litigant bringing a case 14 years later, is evident,” he said.
Both the DA and EFF have brought applications to the high court asking it to set aside the decisions made by the state attorney granting requests by Zuma to fund his legal costs in his criminal cases.
The Presidency has previously said that the state would carry on covering Zuma’s legal fees until a court decided otherwise.
President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed in March that R15.3-million had already been paid in the time Zuma 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.
Masuku argued in court that: “It’s not just Zuma who will suffer (if the court sets aside his legal fees matter). The state attorney would have been acting unlawfully and someone in (the office of the state attorney) must account.”
He also argued that the DA relied on the provisions of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) in its application.
He said the party had failed to comply with section 7(1) of PAJA in that its application was brought outside the prescribed time frame of 180 days from the date of the decision or from when the DA expected to have known about the decision.
Turning to the EFF’s application, Masuku said if the court found in favour of the party, Zuma would have to pay back R16-million in six months.
Earlier, the EFF had argued that it sought an order directing the former president and Hulley to pay back money spent by the state attorney in Zuma’s legal battle.
It is the EFF’s argument that the state attorney paid over R25-million of public money to a private attorney firm, the Hulley Inc, for legal costs incurred by Zuma.
“Over R25-million has been spent and more will be spent in future if this application is not considered and upheld.”
Meanwhile, advocate Sean Rosenberg, SC, for the DA, said the criminal prosecution was against Zuma in his personal capacity and therefore the state should not pay for his legal fees.
He also added that the test should be whether the allegations against Zuma were on the basis that he acted within the scope of the office he held.
“The state attorney has requested to act on his behalf not on behalf of government,” Rosenberg argued.
The case continues on Wednesday.
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