Former president Jacob Zuma’s lawyer says he is entitled to state funding for his corruption trial defence because he is accused of using his public office to commit that corruption.
Attorney Daniel Mantsha says a Democratic Alliance court bid to stop this state funding is “misconceived” and “has no merit” – and further accuses the opposition party of trying to undermine Zuma’s fair trial and constitutional rights.
In an affidavit filed nearly two months late‚ Mantsha has denied claims by the DA that the case against the former president “has nothing to do with his role as a public official” and he is therefore not entitled to state funding.
“One just has to have a casual read of the charges against him [Zuma] to notice that the [DA’s] contention is false and self-serving‚” he said.
Zuma is facing charges in relation to his relationship with his forner financial advisor Schabir Shaik‚ who was convicted of keeping Zuma – then deputy president of the ANC and later deputy president of South Africa – on a corrupt retainer. In exchange for multiple payments‚ Zuma allegedly used his power and position to further Shaik’s interests.
He also stands accused of accepting a R500‚000-a-year bribe‚ facilitated by Shaik‚ from French arms company Thint – in exchange for protecting the company from an investigation into the multibillion-rand arms deal.
Mantsha said it is “self-evident” that the case against Zuma “centered around his official powers and duties”.
“The allegations are that the bribes were intended to induce him to use his public office to further their interests… Logically‚ outside government Mr. Zuma would have no such power.
“The allegations are self-evidently that Mr. Zuma abused or inappropriately used his official powers or duties for the benefit of Shaik and his companies‚ which allegedly attempted to bribe him.”
As a result‚ Mantsha argued‚ the state is obligated to pay Zuma’s defence costs. He said any withdrawal of state funding for Zuma would be unfair‚ as state officials are entitled to such funding‚ and would compromise his right to a fair trial.
The DA and the EFF are both fighting for a 2006 deal between former president Thabo Mbeki‚ Zuma and the state attorney‚ in which the state agreed to fund Zuma’s legal costs‚ to be overturned.
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The EFF want Zuma and his lawyers to be ordered to repay the millions already spent by the state on his corruption trial legal fees.
Mantsha argued‚ however‚ that the DA’s bid to challenge the 2006 presidency and state attorney decisions to fund Zuma’s defense was bought “out of time” and should not be entertained. He also maintained that Zuma is only liable for the repayment of his defence costs if he is convicted.
President Cyril Ramaphosa agreed that the state would continue to fund Zuma’s defence costs in his criminal trial‚ pending the outcome of the DA and EFF challenges. He is not opposing those applications and said he will abide by the decision of the court.