Former president Jacob Zuma has filed papers at the Supreme Court of Appeal in a bid to challenge the 2018 ruling that he must pay back R16 million forked out by taxpayers in his legal battle against corruption charges relating to the arms deal. The court found that Zuma was not legally entitled to a state-sponsored legal defence and that the money already spent on costs must be repaid.
In May, Zuma’s lawyer, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, said his client had run out of money to finance his corruption trial, accusing the state of trying to drive the former president into bankruptcy.
Now, it seems this lack of funds is driving Zuma to persist in fighting the ruling, despite the fact that he has unsuccessfully attempted to appeal it before, with the high court finding that this would have no reasonable prospects for success.
Zuma appears to be arguing that the ruling violates the constitution, Business Day reports. He also accuses the judiciary of political bias.
“I should never be criticised or condemned by the courts for lawfully exercising my constitutional rights,” he says in the papers filed on Monday. “I therefore dispute and deny that I was litigating for the sake of it.”
Zuma further argued that he was indeed entitled to state-funding for his legal defence as he was accused of corruption which occurred during his time in government and resulted from his position as then deputy president.
In June, the High Court in Pretoria ruled that Zuma should pay back the money spent by the state spent on his legal battles, which was calculated at R16 million.
In November last year, the DA and EFF launched the application aimed at forcing Zuma to pay for his own defence in his corruption and money laundering trial.
The DA and EFF asked the court to set aside a series of government decisions dating back to 2005 to pay for a private legal team to represent Zuma in his criminal trial and a series of related applications.
They also wanted the court to order Zuma to pay back the millions already spent on his legal teams, arguing that Zuma failed to honour repeated undertakings to pay back his legal fees if his various applications aimed at stopping his prosecution did not succeed.
Zuma was back in court in May over one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering, and 12 counts of fraud for allegedly receiving bribe money from French arms’ company Thales via his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik.
The case relates to the country’s contentious arms deal of the 1990s, in which Thales secured a multibillion-rand contract to supply combat systems for the South African navy.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, Ilse de Lange and Gopolang Chawane)