- The DA has cried foul and accused president Cyril Ramaphosa of double standards with regards a decision to foot former president Jacob Zuma’s legal bill while refusing to do the same for five apartheid police charged with the murder of Nokuthula Simelane in the 1980s
- Ramaphosa says the state must cover the costs since the charges relate to a time when Zuma was in government as MEC for Economic Development in KwaZulu-Natal
- There is also reportedly a commitment made by Zuma to then president Thabo Mbeki that he would pay back the money should he be convicted on the criminal charges against him
James Selfe, Federal Council chairman of oppostion party, DA, says the government is guilty of applying “double standards” by being prepared to cover the cost of legal fees for former president Jacob Zuma while not being prepared to do the same for five apartheid era policemen facing murder charges.
Briefly.co.za gather that the party made an urgent application in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on Friday after Ramaphosa confirmed that the state would pay the legal fees after it was announced that the NPA would proceed with criminal charges against Zuma.
Selfe, in his court papers, said Ramaphosa had no legal grounds to make such a decision which would allow Zuma to challenge the 16 charges of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money-laundering charges at the state’s expense.
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Selfe said the same State Attorney’s office had repeatedly refused to use state funds to fund the five police officers to challenge the murder accusations resulting in long delays in the trial proceedings. The five have spent the past three years arguing that the alleged offence of murdering Simelane, an uMkhonto we Sizwe’s operative, was committed while they were in their official capacity as members of the South African Police, and under the legal instructions from their commanders or seniors when Simelane disappeared in 1983.
Ramaphosa confirmed that the state would foot the bill for Zuma’s defence in reply to question by the other main opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) CIC, Julius Malema.
In his reply, Ramaphosa said the decision to allow taxpayers’ money to be used was done in accordance with Section 3(3) of the State Attorney Act of 1957. He said it was allowable because the alleged offences were committed while Zuma was holding an official position in government as MEC for Economic Development in KwaZulu-Natal.
In addition Ramaphosa explained that Zuma had made a commitment to the president of the day, Thabo Mbeki, that should be be convicted he would pay back the money.
On Friday, the DA vehemently opposed Ramaphosa’s decision and asked the High Court to set aside its decision with Selfe arguing that Section 3(3) does not allow Ramaphosa or any other government official to make such a decision to impose on the State the obligation to pay for Zuma’s personal legal costs.
Ramaphosa is now expected to file reply affidavits justify the state’s decision to foot the bill , but Selfe remains adamant in his legal submission that no legal justification exists in Ramaphosa’s reply to the EFF.
Meanwhile, Constitutional law expert, Pierre De Vos described the act in question as “not a model of clarity. Section 3(3) (which must be the provision that the government is relying on) reads as if somebody drafted this section after smoking a strong zol. It is a messy jumble of words that is not easy to untangle.”
De Vos argues however that the testing of this and setting of a precedent is important. “Whatever happens, it will be good for a court to provide a definitive answer on whether the state is legally permitted to fund the private lawyers employed by a criminal accused.”
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