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Zumas plead poverty

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Nephew asserts there is no money for legal fees and the state should pay Zuma's legal bills - whether he wins or not.

FILE. Former president Jacob Zuma's family claims he has no money to pay his legal fees. AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)

FORMER president Jacob Zuma will not be able to repay the state if he loses his corruption case, according to his nephew, Simphiwe Zuma.

On Sunday Simphiwe said the state should pay for Zuma’s legal bills – whether or not he wins – as the allegations against his uncle were brought while he carried out official duties.

“It confuses me when they say he must pay back the legal fees if he loses the case. 

‘‘Where is Zuma going to get such huge money to pay back the state? 

“Whatever he did, he did it while he was employed by the government. Therefore, it is important that government fund his legal expenses without expecting (a) refund,” said Simphiwe.

He said the family was yet to meet to discuss the imminent trial.

“By the look of it, the case will take years to be finalised, and it is going to be very expensive. I will only meet Zuma on Tuesday (tomorrow),” he said.

He said he was not aware of any business people willing to help Zuma financially.

Simphiwe said that when Zuma was forced to resign, the family hoped he would spend his retirement time with them.

“It pains us that such things (trial) are happening,” he said.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the National Assembly that he will provide answers on Thursday on what the legal basis was for the
state to foot Zuma’s legal bills in the case related to the arms deal.

The Office of the State Attorney had revealed that R15.3 million was incurred on behalf of Zuma in connection with the spy tapes report.

Ramaphosa also said there was an agreement between Zuma and the government that the former president would pay should he lose the case.

Opposition parties are set to take the agreement, entered into between Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki, to court if necessary.

The Thabo Mbeki Foundation said yesterday the former president would not at this stage publicly comment on the agreement.

Mbeki’s spokesperson, Thami Ntenteni, said they would allow Ramaphosa to lead the process on the legal bills matter.

“Mr Mbeki is no longer president now, so it would be premature to express a view on this matter.

“The current president of the country is already dealing with this matter, so at this stage there is nothing that links him (Mbeki). 

“Whatever decision he may have taken on this issue at the time, he would have done that as the president of the country, so the Presidency will deal with it,” Ntenteni said.

Freedom Under Law’s  Johann Kriegler, a retired justice of the Constitutional Court, said Zuma’s trial would likely take years to be finalised.

“Certainly it is not going to be quick to be finalised. That you can be sure of… certainly that it can take years. 

“I suggest that neither you nor your readers should get impatient because the law works slowly, even if people don’t try to slow it down, and you and your readers must be prepared to be very patient.”

He said he could see Zuma’s legal teams arguing that the trial was unfair for Zuma since it had taken so long to return to court.

Kriegler said it was common for a state to pay for its employee’s legal fees if that employee was charged with a crime committed while exercising his official duty.

ANC Youth League (ANCYL) secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza said the league would rally behind Zuma because they believed this case was politically motivated.

“We are talking about charges that have been delayed for more than 10 years and they are now being being reinstated.” 

Nzuza said the league had not yet discussed programmes to support Zuma.

ANCYL KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Mandla Shange said that since the league believed in Zuma’s innocence, “it would be important that the league support him”.