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State funded Zuma on ‘most luxurious scale’ - Court

The High Court says if the state is burdened with the high legal costs of public office bearers charged with such crimes, the taxpayer bears the burden.

FILE: Former President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN.

PRETORIA - The High Court has ruled that the fraud, corruption and related charges against former President Jacob Zuma had nothing to do with his official government functions.

This was among the findings of a full bench in Pretoria, which has now ordered the State attorney to recover all the funds spent on Zuma’s legal fees over the past 13 years.

The expenses relate to both civil litigation and criminal prosecutions and could amount to over R30 million.

The High Court says it’s in the public interest that charges of abuse of public office, such as fraud and corruption, are prosecuted.

It says if the State is burdened with the high legal costs of public office bearers charged with such crimes, the taxpayer bears the burden and poor communities continue to be denied services.

The full bench found that the State funded Zuma on a “most luxurious scale”.

The court says the 783 payments or gratifications Zuma allegedly received outside of his official remuneration cannot be seen as conduct connected to his official function.

It says the alleged payments were solely for Zuma’s benefit, which is why the state must not pay for his private legal expenses.

‘STATE NOT A CASH COW’

The Centre for Constitutional Rights (CFCR) says Thursday’s judgement against Zuma confirms the constitutional principle of accountability.

The organisation believes this sends out a clear message to public officials that the State is not a cash cow to finance lavish criminal defence litigation.

It believes the judgement affirmed that valuable and scarce State resources should not be diverted on a grand scale to finance public officials charged with corruption.

“The High Court emphasised that valuable State resources cannot be squandered recklessly when the most vulnerable in our society are denied access to essential services,” says a legal officer at CFCR, Christine Botha.

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