Taxpayers should not have to pay President Jacob Zuma’s legal costs when he has abused the court‚ lied under oath‚ and is litigating to protect his own personal interests‚ opposition parties are arguing in court papers.
After the president’s dramatic u-turn in his bid to prevent the release of the public protector’s State of Capture report by withdrawing his urgent application on the second day of the hearing‚ the DA‚ EFF‚ United Democratic Movement and the Congress of the People urged the court to order Zuma to pay for the legal costs out of his own pocket.
They even asked the to court to order that Zuma pay his own costs – the costs of the state attorney and counsel representing him.
But the president’s counsel‚ Anthea Platt SC‚ argued that Zuma should not be ordered to pay the costs personally – because the public protector’s report looked into Zuma’s conduct in his official capacity.
In court papers‚ filed in the Pretoria High Court on Friday‚ Etienne Labuschagne SC‚ on behalf on the DA‚ said in the litigation over the report‚ Zuma had acted “solely as a private citizen”‚ who came to court to defend his own personal interests.
“He is‚ like any other South African‚ entitled to seek relief from the court. But then‚ like any other South African‚ he must pay for it himself‚” said Labuschagne.
Dali Mpofu SC‚ counsel for the other opposition parties agreed and added that the State Attorney’s Act did not allow the state attorney to represent the president in his personal capacity.
“The present matter did not involve the interests of the office of the president. It involved the interests of the incumbent. These two concepts are different‚” said Mpofu.
But Platt said the investigation looked into the president’s conduct as president.
“Therefore‚ in our view‚ when the President enforces his rights he does so on the basis that the investigation process was flawed with the result that it infringed one of his fundamental rights.” she said.
She also offered a different interpretation of the State Attorney’s Act‚ saying the president was entitled to be represented by the state attorney.
Platt added that‚ when the case was heard‚ the Public Protector had not made any adverse findings against Zuma.
But Labuschagne said even if Zuma were to claim that he acted in his official capacity‚ he should still pay —
because‚ as president he is held to higher standards than other South Africans.
Labuschagne said Zuma had “deliberately and in bad faith abused this court’s process” — when he tried to delay and prevent the release of the report knowing there was no legal basis to do so.
He “resorted to cynical tactical manoeuvres to attempt to delay the release for as long as possible”.
Mpofu said the way the president had conducted the litigation was really motivated by a desire to delay and prevent his unlawful activities from being publicly exposed.
He also lied when he said that a concession he had made in one of his answering affidavits was “a typing error‚” said the opposition parties. Mpofu said this was “the crowning glory of his mala fides”.
However‚ Platt argued that looking at the affidavits overall a finding of perjury could not be made.
But Labuschagne said the “unconscionable” conduct of the president was deserving of the “most severe possible censure”.
“The taxpayer should not have to pay for that kind of behaviour‚” he said.
Mpofu said a very senior full bench was constituted to hear the case – including Judge President Dunstan Mlambo and Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo – only for the president to withdraw on the second day.
“No litigant who did not rely on taxpayers’ money could conceivably behave in that fashion‚” said Mpofu.
– TMG Digital/BusinessLIVE