Is he broke? Lawyer says Jacob Zuma can’t afford to finance corruption trial

Jacob Zuma’s advocate Muzi Sikhakhane accused the State of trying to squeeze the former president dry through litigation until he couldn’t afford to pay his legal fees.

Former President Jacob Zuma at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on 21 May 2019. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

PIETERMARITZBURG - Jacob Zuma’s advocate Muzi Sikhakhane said on Thursday his client didn’t have the money to finance his corruption trial.

He’s accused the State of trying to squeeze the former president dry through litigation until he couldn’t afford to pay his legal fees.

Sikhakhane was responding to the National Prosecuting Authority’s argument in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday afternoon where the prosecuting body opposed Zuma’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution in a case involving a raft of corruption charges related to the multibillion-rand arms deal.

In December, a full bench of the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ordered Zuma to pay millions of rands to the State, finding the former president illegally used taxpayers' funds to defend his corruption and fraud cases.

Zuma was estimated to owe government more than R15 million in legal fees.

But Sikhakhane said his client didn’t have money.

“Mr Zuma remains here, squeezed out of everything he could do. He has no finances, the State has squeezed that (sic).”

He said the State had dragged Zuma through the courts in order to bleed him dry.

“The State is squeezing him out not to be able to afford lawyers (sic).”

Earlier on Thursday, State lawyer Wim Trengove argued it was Zuma who had used the legal system to him to drag the case out, at public expense.

SPECIAL TREATMENT

The NPA has argued that Zuma must not be granted a permanent stay of prosecution because he will be seen to have received special treatment.

The former president claimed his reputation had suffered and he’d been the victim of mob justice, unreasonable delays and political interference.

He used this argument to ask the court to dismiss corruption charges against him.

But Trengove said doing so would be a big mistake.

“There is a high risk that if Mr Zuma escapes prosecution, that he would be seen to have received special treatment because he is an important and powerful man.”

He said the former president had already used his position as the head of State to avoid prosecution.

“He managed to do so by using to the hilt the constitutional legal system available to him at public expense of between R16 and R32 million.”

He argued that for the maintenance of rule of law all people must be treated equally.