NEWS & ANALYSIS

Decision to pay for Zuma's legal fees taken in 2006 - The Presidency

Not possible to locate written agreement, but Zuma did sign two undertakings

President Ramaphosa provides further information on former President Zuma's legal fees

22 March 2018

Pretoria - President Cyril Ramaphosa has today, 22 March 2018, submitted to the National Assembly’s questions office further information sought by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema on the legal provision relied on to fund former President Jacob Zuma’s personal legal costs.

President Ramaphosa undertook to provide further information while responding to questions in the National Assembly on 14 March 2018 

In the written response submitted today, President Ramaphosa indicated that:

“I was informed that the State Attorney, at the time of considering the request made by President Zuma for legal representation at State expense, considered section 3(3) of the State Attorney Act, 1957 (as amended) to give her discretion where the State was not party to a matter but interested or concerned in it, or it was in the public interest to provide such representation to a government official.

“The acts on the basis of which it is alleged that the former President committed criminal offences took place during his tenure as a government official both at provincial and later at national level.

“In addition, the Department of Justice considered section 12.2.2 of the then applicable Treasury Regulations, issued in terms of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999, read with section 3(1) of the State Attorney Act, as providing for an obligation to refund the state if any loss was found to be incurred when an official was acting outside the course and scope of his employment.

“For this reason, the State Attorney decided that it was appropriate to grant the request of the former President, subject to the condition that he make an undertaking (which he did) to refund monies thus spent should it be found that he acted in his personal capacity and own interest in the commission of the alleged offences.”

Update:

PRESIDENCY RESPONDS TO DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE ENQUIRY ON FORMER PRESIDENT ZUMA’S LEGAL FEES

Pretoria – The State Attorney, acting on the instructions of the Presidency, has today, 22 March 2018, responded to a request by lawyers representing the Democratic Alliance (DA) for information on the provision of legal representation to former President Jacob Zuma at state expense.

In a letter to the DA’s lawyers, the State Attorney advised, among other things, that:

- The decision to provide legal representation to Mr Zuma at state expense was taken in accordance with section 3(1) of the State Attorney Act 56 of 1957.

- This decision was taken by the Presidency in 2006. After receiving a request from Mr Zuma for legal representation, the Presidency sought advice from the Minister of Justice and the State Attorney. The decision was based on advice from the then Chief State Law Advisor, Director-General in the Department of Justice, the Minister of Justice and the State Attorney, who all recommended the provision of legal representation at state expense under section 3 of the State Attorney Act.

- The decision was subject to the undertaking by former President Zuma to refund the legal costs incurred by the State in the event that his defence was unsuccessful.

- While it has not been possible to locate a written agreement between the Presidency and Mr Zuma in this respect, the Presidency does have copies of undertakings signed by Mr Zuma on 22 August 2006 and 26 September 2008.

- Due to the fact that the Presidents who came after the undertaking was signed are the successor in title in the President’s office, they assume the obligation created in the undertaking. The Presidency is therefore bound by that decision and must continue paying for Mr Zuma’s legal fees on the basis that it undertook to do so until such time as the decision is reviewed and set aside by a court.

The Presidency wishes to reiterate the statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa in the National Assembly last week that this administration is guided by the fundamental principle that public money should not be used to cover the legal expenses of individuals on strictly personal matters or who are found to have committed criminal offences.

Statements issued by Khusela Diko, The Presidency, 22 March 2018