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Masutha: I have no power to review decision to fund Zuma’s legal bills

Justice Minister Michael Masutha faced more questions about the decision to pay Jacob Zuma’s legal fees from Parliament’s Justice Committee on Wednesday.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN - Justice Minister Michael Masutha says that he has no power to review the state attorney’s decision to fund former president Jacob Zuma’s legal bills.

Masutha, this week, revealed that more than R24 million of public funds has been spent in various court actions between 2006 and 2017, much more than was previously indicated.

The amount includes R15,3 million paid out after Zuma opposed the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) bid to search the offices of arms-deal company Thint and to get documents from Mauritius, a case that went all the way to the Constitutional Court.

Masutha faced more questions about the decision to pay Zuma’s legal fees from Parliament’s Justice Committee on Wednesday.

Democratic Alliance MP Glynnis Breytenbach wanted to know who decided that Zuma’s costly and unsuccessful litigation should be entered and paid for.

“Questioning the powers of the Public Protector (over) Nkandla; the constitutional argument was crystal clear to most people who have a rudimentary understanding of the law, yet the department splashed out R3.2 million for five advocates to run a case they could never win. Who takes these decisions, who approves this kind of expenditure?”

Masutha replied that it was the state attorney but claimed that he had no power to challenge or change such a decision.

"My understanding is that it is the prerogative of the state attorney and under the State Attorney Act, I do not have the powers to review decisions of the state attorney relating to the funding of litigation on behalf of the state.”

Masutha says it is now up the courts to decide whether the more than R24 million spent on Zuma’s legal fees was justified or not.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)