The High Court in Pretoria handed down judgment this morning on whether former president Jacob Zuma can be held personally liable for at least some of the millions spent on his legal costs fighting corruption charges.
An amount of R32 million was calculated by the EFF, while the DA and the presidency estimated that more than R16 million has already been paid for Zuma by taxpayers.
The court ruled that the state attorney would need to determine what the costs actually are. According to Ulrich Roux, speaking to eNCA after the ruling, Zuma will have to repay the money as soon as the costs are finalised. If he can’t do it, the EFF and DA will be able to approach the courts to attach his assets.
The court found that the agreement he struck with the presidency more than a decade ago was invalid and the money already spent should be recovered.
The fees were incurred as far back as 2006, during Zuma’s criminal prosecution in the spy tapes matter.
Zuma is likely to appeal, and his legal team already indicated they will be doing so.
The application to have Zuma pay back the money was brought by the Democratic Alliance (DA), which was later joined by the Economic Freedom Fighters. Both parties also wanted the agreement between President Cyril Ramaphosa and his predecessor Zuma to cover his legal costs declared unlawful.
Arguing that the criminal prosecution was against Zuma in his personal capacity, the DA said the state should not be paying for his legal fees.
The party further said that criminal charges did not meet the requirements to obtain legal assistance from the state in his court battles.
The presidency said, in honour of a previous agreement, the state would carry on covering Zuma’s legal fees until the court decides otherwise. Ramaphosa had already said he would honour whatever the court decides.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane welcomed the ruling, saying it had cut the pipeline that funded corruption and its defence for the ANC.
He added that it was a precedent-setting judgment.