Former president Jacob Zuma’s legal counsel has argued that the joint applications by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) challenging decisions by the state attorney and the presidency to cover the former president’s legal costs were delayed, politically motivated and without legal merit.
Advocate Thabani Masuku said the applications by the opposition parties were merely meant to derail the former president and his legal team from focusing on his corruption, money laundering and racketeering court case.
Masuku was rounding off legal arguments on Wednesday following submissions by EFF legal counsel, Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, and DA legal counsel, Advocate Sean Rosenberg, on Tuesday.
Zuma’s legal representative argued before the full bench that the DA had failed to bring the case as far back as 2008 while the EFF also had knowledge of the legal arrangement as far back as when the party got into Parliament but had failed to challenge the matter until now.
“Dismiss the DA and EFF applications on the basis of undue delay,” argued Masuku.
Ngcukaitobi argued that Masuku’s submission on undue delay did not hold water because the case was brought on the basis that the presidency and state attorney along with Zuma have been engaged in “continuous wrongful doing” every time a counsel has been paid using taxpayers’ money.
“Since Zuma’s legal fees are still being paid for using taxpayers’ money then there is still merit in filing an application at this stage,” argued Ngcukaitobi.
Zuma’s counsel, however, argued that the appointment of private legal counsel by the former president was above board.
“Zuma engaged the state attorney and got legal advice assuring him that as a result of the state attorney not being available to offer legal services, the appointment of another legally qualified counsel was as per Section 3(1) and 3 (3) of the State Attorney’s Act,” said Masuku.
Masuku argued therefore that contrary to the submissions made by Ngcukaitobi on Tuesday, Zuma’s former counsel Michael Hulley and all legal representatives hired “with the legal blessing” of the state attorney should not pay back any of the proceeds of the legal battles.
Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba, however, queried Masuku’s understanding of both section 3 (1) and 3 (3) of the State Attorney’s Act.
“These sections allow for a state attorney – in a case where he/she is unavailable to give legal support – to appoint a correspondent who takes directive from the attorney. In this case because of the conflict of interest, Zuma appointed his own legal representatives and the sections allow for such actions,” said Ledwaba.
Masuku replied that the state attorney was well within his rights to allow the appointment of another legal counsel because he was not available at the time and should not have – as suggested by Ngcukaitobi – subjected the process to a tender procurement process.
Zuma’s legal counsel also argued that the application, particularly by the DA challenging the decisions by the state attorney and the presidency to cover the former president’s legal costs, was a bid by the party to portray itself as the “champion of accountability”.
“It is clear that this litigation is part and parcel of the DA’s political strategy to undermine its political enemy and to portray itself as the champion of accountability in public life‚” said Masuku.
Masuku also argued that the applications were meant as a distraction for Zuma and his legal team from his pending corruption, money laundering and racketeering court sitting at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
“Instead of preparing for that litigation, I am here arguing these applications,” said Masuku.
The matter was adjourned for judgment with Ledwaba promising a speedy ruling given the fact that Zuma had to be back at the Pietermaritzburg High Court by November 30.