Jacob Zuma must pay from his own pocket for legal fees, court rules

Former President Jacob Zuma. File picture
Former President Jacob Zuma. File picture
Image: Jackie Clausen

The high court in Pretoria has dismissed former president Jacob Zuma's bid to appeal a costs order made against him in his personal capacity when he went to court to review former public protector Thuli Madonsela's 'State of Capture' report.

The court ruled on Friday that it was "not in the interests of justice" to grant Zuma's condonation application, which was necessary for an actual leave to appeal application.

A full bench heard the application in September, where he argued to appeal against the costs order, which was made in December 2017. That order compelled Zuma to pay what could be about R10m in legal fees in his personal capacity. 

In December, high court judge president Dunstan Mlambo described Zuma's review application of the report as “ill-advised” and “reckless”.

Zuma had taken Madonsela's report on review, and was slapped with two punitive costs orders relating to the report. The first one was for a botched attempt to interdict the release of the report, while the second was for taking the report on review. 

Besides having to fork out the money for the original costs order, Zuma's financial woes deepened further on Friday, when the court also ordered him to pay the costs of both the condonation application in the matter and the actual application for leave to appeal.

All of the respondents in the matter, which included the DA, the EFF, UDM, Cope and the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, asked the court for costs against Zuma in his personal capacity.

This week the high court in Pretoria also reserved judgment on whether Zuma would have to pay back the money the state has paid to fund his criminal defence, which has taken the form of a years-long legal battle.

It is not clear what the amount of the legal costs were in the criminal matter so far, but the estimation, depending on who is asked, was anywhere from R15m to R32m.

Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering stemming from 783 alleged payments to him in relation to the arms deal when he was KwaZulu-Natal MEC of economic affairs and tourism.

Deputy judge president Aubrey Ledwaba said the court would try to have a judgment on the matter before the end of this court term, which is in December.