783 Corruption Charges – President Jacob Zuma has been served with court papers for refusing to reveal the costs of his legal defence in the long-running “Spy Tapes” case.
This development was made known by the Democratic Alliance (DA) federal council chairman James Selfe in a statement he issued on Sunday.
During a question and answer session in Parliament on November 2, DA leader Mmusi Maimane had asked the president to tell the National Assembly the amount he has spent in legal fees during his battle against the 783 charges of fraud, corruption, and racketeering against him.
But Zuma steadfastly refused to clearly answer the Parliamentary question while Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli, who was presiding at the time, helped him in avoiding the “specific and straightforward question”.
His only response was that he’s entitled to legal costs “at state expense according to the provisions of the State Attorney Act 56 of 1957” – an answer the DA said provided no rand figure or estimate of expenses at all.
Following Zuma’s tricky answer, the opposition took to the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town, where it filed a founding affidavit on November 9.
The DA, in its founding affidavit, asked the court to order the president to provide the amount he has spent on avoiding the 783 charges of fraud, corruption, and racketeering against him. The party also wants President Zuma to submit the figure in writing, within five days, to the National Assembly.
By avoiding the question, the party said it believes both the president and the Deputy Speaker, Lechesa Tsenoli violated the law and constitution – which clearly set out in Sections 42 (3) and 55 that “the National Assembly has a responsibility to hold the executive to account, and that it should provide mechanisms to ensure accountability. Thus, Parliamentary questions were one such mechanism”.
Not only the DA, Zuma’s critics have called out the president to reveal the full amount he spent in defending himself in the case for more than eight years.
They are of the opinion that the amount should be revealed in the public interest since taxpayers have been paying the bill for his legal costs.
The spy-tape case against Zuma, popularly known as ‘JZ 783’ stems from his time as deputy president between 1999 and 2005. During this period, he allegedly received an annual bribe of £40,000 from the local subsidiary of a French defence company in return for shielding it from an official investigation into the arms deal.
He is also accused of accepting payments totalling £280,000 from Schabir Shaik – a businessman who then acted as his financial adviser. Mr Zuma allegedly used his influence to give Shaik contracts and favours.
The dropping the case in 2009, cleared the way for him to win the presidency.
Following a court ruling that the charges be reviewed, President Zuma, who has always protested his innocence, would face a long prison term if convicted.