23/03/2018 06:14 SAST | Updated 23/03/2018 06:14 SAST

Who Pays Zuma's R15m Legal Fees? The Presidency Still Has To, Says Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa says the agreement is legal and that Zuma's legal problems are "of public import".

Former president Jacob Zuma.
Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Former president Jacob Zuma.

It is "legal" for government to pay for former president's legal fees as they are "of public import", according to President Cyril Ramaphosa. TimesLive reported that Ramaphosa explained the rationale behind a 2006 deal, where government agreed to pay Zuma's legal fees for the charges against him as the allegations "were in regard to his duties" as a state employee.

The DA reportedly received copies of the deal signed by Zuma in 2006 and 2008, TimesLive reported.

At the time, former president Thabo Mbeki reportedly said the deal was done in terms of the State Attorney's Act, which stipulated that this was legal if the allegations against Zuma took place while he was in government, Ramaphosa reportedly said.

But the DA is reportedly not satisfied, and plans to challenge the deal in court.

In a statement last week, the party said it wanted to ensure Zuma pays for his own legal fees, now estimated at about R15-million.

Ramaphosa was also responding to the EFF which, last week, wanted to know the legal grounds for the 2006 agreement, especially since Zuma is set to face trial now that he is no longer president.

According to News24, Ramaphosa said the presidency is "bound" by the agreement "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 State Attorney was legally empowered to use his discretion to grant requests like this, in cases where the state was not necessarily a party to the matter but was "interested or concerned" in it, or where it was in the public interest to assist a public official with their legal fees, he reportedly said.

The DA intends filing papers on Friday in the North Gauteng High Court in an effort to take the agreement on review, eNCA reported. The DA's James Selfe told eNCA that it was "nonsensical and illegal" for taxpayers to foot the bill for Zuma's legal problems.