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Court battle brewing over Zuma legal fees

Both the DA and the EFF say they’re preparing to go to court to have the deal struck with Zuma under which the Presidency has so far paid out R15.3 million to Zuma’s lawyers declared unlawful and set aside.

FILE: Former President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN - A legal battle is looming over the decision to use taxpayers money to fund millions spent on former President Jacob Zuma’s legal defence over fraud and corruption charges.

Both the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters say they’re preparing to go to court to have the deal struck with Zuma under which the Presidency has so far paid out R15.3 million to Zuma’s lawyers declared unlawful and set aside.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday told the EFF in a written reply that the agreement was made in terms of the State Attorney Act and Treasury regulations.

In a response to questions from the DA’s lawyers, the State Attorney’s office says that the decision was based on advice from former chief state law adviser Enver Daniels, former Justice Director-General Menzi Simelane and then Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla as well as the State Attorney at the time.

The DA says the response from the State Attorney makes it clear that the R15.3 million spent so far on Zuma’s legal fees was for the civil action the party brought to have the decision to drop his charges overturned and not the criminal case against him, which has yet to begin.

DA Federal Council chairperson James Selfe says that the party intends filing papers in the North Gauteng High Court as soon as possible.

“Our legal team is in the process of drawing up the papers. The question is only how quickly they can do that.

“We will be asking the court to declare that that agreement was an unlawful agreement, to have it set aside and to order former President Zuma to pay back the money that was spent on the civil action.”

The State Attorney’s office says the agreement was subject to Zuma undertaking to personally repay the money if his defence was unsuccessful.

However, it says it cannot locate a written agreement between the Presidency and Zuma about this.

The EFF said “the whole saga smells of illegality and irrationality” and that it has also instructed lawyers to prepare an application to have the “secret deal” set aside.