The case for JZ to pay his own le­gal costs

CityPress - - News - HLENGIWE NHLABATHI hlengiwe.nhlabathi@city­press.co.za

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma is fight­ing tooth and nail not to pay le­gal fees from his pocket af­ter he at­tempted to block the re­lease of the State of Cap­ture re­port, which flags po­ten­tial wrong­do­ing on his part and some mem­bers of his Cab­i­net.

Zuma – who has been de­scribed as a “self­ish lit­i­gant” who chose to “lie” in his bid to block the re­lease of the for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s re­port – in­sists it is ul­ti­mately tax­pay­ers who must foot the bill.

In court pa­pers filed with the Pre­to­ria High Court on Fri­day, Zuma says he should not be or­dered to pay in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity be­cause the for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion was aimed at the ex­er­cis­ing of his du­ties as a mem­ber of the ex­ec­u­tive.

Ac­cord­ingly, his sub­mis­sion reads, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor dealt with mat­ters rel­e­vant to the work of gov­ern­ment. He re­lies on his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the State Li­a­bil­ity Act, that debt must be charged against the ap­pro­pri­ate bud­get for the depart­ment con­cerned, in this in­stance the of­fice of the pres­i­dency.

“The state at­tor­ney must re­cover its costs from the of­fice of the pres­i­dent. The ac­count­ing of­fi­cer of the pres­i­dency is re­spon­si­ble for im­ple­ment­ing the PFMA [Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act].”

Fur­ther­more, he ad­vances an ar­gu­ment that there was no ev­i­dence to sug­gest that he vi­o­lated the Ex­ec­u­tive Mem­bers’ Ethics Act and there­fore the state at­tor­ney was obliged to per­form work on his be­half in his ca­pac­ity as pres­i­dent.

Zuma was re­spond­ing to an ap­pli­ca­tion by the DA, Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers, Congress of the Peo­ple and United Demo­cratic Move­ment for him to be held per­son­ally li­able for all le­gal costs, in­clud­ing that of the state at­tor­ney.

The par­ties ar­gue that Zuma con­sis­tently abused the of­fice of the state at­tor­ney in or­der to pro­tect his per­sonal in­ter­ests. They be­lieve, re­gard­less of whether or not he acted in his of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity, he in fact acted reck­lessly and in com­plete dis­re­gard of his con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Zuma should have been rep­re­sented by his per­sonal at­tor­ney, like Co­op­er­a­tive Gover­nance Min­is­ter Des Van Rooyen had been, in­stead of be­ing rep­re­sented by the state, the par­ties said.

They sub­mit that he in­ter­fered with the func­tion­ing of the for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor with his in­ter­dict; then at­tempted to de­lay the fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the mat­ter in the guise of seek­ing clar­ity on whether the re­port was fi­nal; and at worst com­mit­ted bla­tant per­jury by blam­ing a “typ­ing er­ror” for his con­ces­sion that the re­port be re­leased if it were fi­nal.

“The pres­i­dent’s ap­pli­ca­tion was a cyn­i­cal at­tempt to in­hibit, un­der­mine and sab­o­tage the [for­mer] pub­lic pro­tec­tor. Not only was this in­con­sis­tent with the of­fice held by the pres­i­dent, it also amounts to an abuse of his of­fice,” the op­po­si­tion par­ties said.

They in­sist that the al­le­ga­tion of a typ­ing er­ror is demon­stra­bly false and that what most likely tran­spired was a change of stance af­ter Zuma recog­nised the con­se­quence of his con­ces­sion.

“The fact that the pres­i­dent has con­ducted him­self in this fash­ion proves his men­dac­ity, and is jus­ti­fy­ing a per­sonal cost or­der.”

They point out that Zuma was in­vited to with­draw his in­ter­dict to pre­vent the wastage of costs by all par­ties, in­clud­ing tax­pay­ers, but he opted to forge ahead and in the process de­ceived the court.

“Surely Zuma can­not con­ceiv­ably ar­gue that when he lied un­der oath be­fore his God and sought to de­ceive the court, at huge ex­penses to the tax­pay­ers, he did so ‘in his ca­pac­ity as pres­i­dent’. When he took the oath, he said ‘so help me God’ and not ‘so help the pres­i­dent of the Re­pub­lic of South Africa’,” the par­ties said.

The fact that Zuma had asked for “an ab­surd and disin­gen­u­ous” post­pone­ment on an ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion, be­fore in­ex­pli­ca­bly with­draw­ing, has also come back to haunt Zuma, as the par­ties sub­mit this amounted to abuse of process to de­lay the res­o­lu­tion of the dis­pute.

“The fact that the par­ties were com­pelled to in­cur nec­es­sary ex­penses re­lat­ing to a mer­it­less post­pone­ment ap­pli­ca­tion il­lus­trates clearly that the ap­pli­ca­tion was not brought in the pub­lic in­ter­est, but in or­der to safe­guard the per­sonal in­ter­est of Zuma,” they sub­mit­ted.

Zuma had also failed to ini­tially op­pose the par­ties’ in­ten­tions for him to be held per­son­ally li­able for the costs.

The DA says in its pa­pers that Zuma’s con­duct was a di­rect be­trayal of his du­ties in act­ing as the “per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tional project”, but rather a “self­ish lit­i­gant” seek­ing to use ev­ery move – whether un­law­ful or not – to ad­vance his per­sonal in­ter­ests.

“The only ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse is a puni­tive or­der re­quir­ing the pres­i­dent to bear all the costs of this lit­i­ga­tion – both his own and that of all other par­ties – in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity,” the party said.

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