Publication: Cape Argus Issued: Date: 2005-12-17 Reporter: Angela Quintal Reporter:

Taxpayer Forks Out Cool R1m for Zuma



Cape Argus




Angela Quintal

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Shaik trial: expensive 'watching brief'

The taxpayer forked out R1.02 million to fund then deputy president Jacob Zuma's legal costs relating to the corruption trial of his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik.

Replying in writing to a parliamentary question from DA MP Sheila Camerer, President Thabo Mbeki said the costs related to a "watching brief" for Zuma involving two advocates, one attorney and a legal firm.

Advocate Neil Tuchten was paid R230 736, advocate Mohamed Patel R681 471.85, attorney Julekha Mahomed R77 148.98 and Woodhead Bigby and Irving Inc R31 573.58.

"As previously indicated, the presidency agreed to fund a watching brief for the former deputy president on the basis that although the former deputy president was not charged, the majority of allegations that had to be answered in court involved him directly and may have involved him in a government capacity," Mbeki said.

'It has yet to be decided whether Zuma's costs relating to his own corruption trial would be covered by the state'

Presidential spokesman Murphy Morobe said yesterday that it had yet to be decided whether Zuma's costs relating to his own corruption trial would be covered by the state. Zuma has asked for these costs to be covered too. He has four senior advocates in his team, two junior counsel and three attorneys.

Earlier this year, both Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and ANC chief whip Mbulelo Goniwe said in the National Assembly that if the state was expected to pay for the legal costs of people like Wouter Basson and Magnus Malan, then it could not be faulted *1 for picking up Zuma's tab.

The Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust is trying to raise money to pay for the costs of the axed Zuma's corruption trial, which begins in the Durban High Court in July next year. It is expected to total more than R12m.

They will not, however, bankroll Zuma's rape trial, scheduled for February next year in the Johannesburg High Court. The alleged rape occurred in November this year, after Zuma was fired as the country's deputy president and the state will therefore not be expected to pick up the tab.

Meanwhile, Mbeki's inability to "recall" whether he met representatives of a French arms company implicated in alleged corruption in the arms deal, and whose South African subsidiary faces prosecution along with Zuma, was met with criticism yesterday.

Mbeki was replying in writing to a question from DA MP Eddie Trent and which was buried in a slew of replies published by parliament's questions office on Thursday, a day after MPs went on their annual holiday.

"The president does not recall such a meeting," Mbeki's reply says.

"However, in the course of his duties as president of the Republic of South Africa and previously as deputy president, the president has met and interacted with a large number of business people and representatives of business entities."

The president's reply comes at the end of a six-month battle by Trent to establish whether Mbeki, when he was still deputy president, did in fact meet executives of Thomson-CSF on or about December 17, 1998.

The MP's question was based on two faxes from Thomson-CSF, both of which allegedly named Mbeki.

The one fax indicated that Mbeki had met Thomson-CSF executives in France in December 1998. The fax was by Thomson-CSF senior vice-president B de Bollardiere to Mbeki, which confirmed they had met. Mbeki was deputy president at the time and headed the ministerial committee overseeing the arms deal.

Independent Newspapers reported in November that Mbeki had been informed by Zuma that he and other high-profile cabinet ministers would be asked to testify about a letter sent in January 2001 by Zuma to Gavin Woods, the IFP MP who then chaired parliament's watchdog committee on public accounts.

Zuma has apparently alleged that although he signed the letter, it was actually written by Mbeki himself, working with a group of cabinet ministers. The letter to Woods was used in the Shaik corruption trial in support of the charge that he had sought a bribe from the French arms company by offering Zuma's protection against the investigation into the arms deal.

Trent said: "The president should seriously jolt his memory, given the fact that he may be called to testify. Such a reply would be unconvincing before a judge."

Arms deal contractor Richard Young said Mbeki's response in the face of the fax indicated that there was no innocent explanation for the December meeting.

"That this meeting occurred after the South African government announced the preferred suppliers in November 1998 and that the German Frigate Consortium (GFC) had in their May 1998 formal offer included the possibility of using the Thomson-CSF-owned African Defence Systems (Pty) Ltd (ADS) as the combat suite contractor, but that the corvette contract was only signed in December 1999, further indicates irregular and unlawful intervention of the government."

With acknowledgements to Angela Quintal and Cape Argus.

*1  These two nincampoops can easily be faulted on their logic - or can they?

However reprehensible were their actions, those of Gen Magnus Malan and Dr Wouter Basson were beyond argument on behalf of The State. Therefore The State is obliged to pay for their defence. This is trite logic.

Are the nincampoops saying that Zuma was not on a frolic of his own when he accepted a R500 000 per year benefit over two years from a French defence company in exchange for his protection as Deputy President of The Republic from their investigation in the Arms Deal and permanent support for their future projects? If so, they are saying he was acting for The Republic?

If so, I like it.