Zuma Dodges Litigation Fees Question; Parliament In Chaos

"I haven't spent the money; the government has spent the money."
President Jacob Zuma addresses Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
President Jacob Zuma addresses Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
Mike Hutchings / Reuters

An indirect answer by President Jacob Zuma to a question posed by opposition leader Mmusi Maimane in Parliament led to the the Democratic Alliance storming out of the house on Thursday.

Zuma was asked what the total amount of all legal costs incurred by his office was, in respect of the National Prosecuting Authority's decision to drop the 783 counts of fraud, corruption and racketeering against him in his personal capacity. The case has been in and out of court for almost 10 years.

Zuma said the litigation was not "at the instance of the president", but was initiated by the DA, and he has merely defended it.

"The president has defended it, as he is entitled to do so, at state expense, according to the provisions of the State Attorney Act... This benefit is extended to all who are employed in the service of the state," Zuma said.

Zuma ended there, as shouts from the opposition benches of "how much" could be heard echoing across the house.

"I don't know what provokes the answer, I am answering the question because the answer gives the impression I have been running to courts... I haven't spent the money; the government has spent the money," Zuma said.

"If [Maimane] is not satisfied, I have answered the question."

Chaos broke out, with DA members demanding a direct answer to the question, and Deputy Speaker Solomon Tsenoli denying the party's attempts to raise a point of order. Eventually, the DA walked out of Parliament.

However, before the ruckus, Zuma said that he will appoint his judicial commission of inquiry immediately after the court rules on his application to set aside former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's "State Of Capture" recommendations.

The president was answering a question by Congress of the People member Deidre Carter.

Carter asked what government's position is on the findings contained in the Unburdening Panel's "The Betrayal Of The Promise" report, which detail the emergence of a shadow state that allegedly feeds off the state by establishing a network of patronage, corruption and state capture.

"I have also stated before that I will establish a commission of inquiry to investigate such allegations. I will do so as soon as my application to review and set aside the relevant public protector's remedial action is finalised. The matter was heard in court on the 24th and 25th of October, and we are still waiting for the judgement," Zuma responded.

"Authors of the two reports should provide their information to [law enforcement agencies] and to the commission, once it is established."

He said the sub-judice law stops him from appointing the inquiry until the court process is over.

"I could not push the dates of court. In terms of the law, if the matter is in court, I couldn't establish a commission on the same thing. Lawyers say it is a matter that is sub judice. You want me to break the law?" the president said.

"I wanted to do that earlier than anything else, and I'm ready after the judgment. I'm going to establish it immediately," he concluded.