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SCA orders Zuma to foot his own legal bills

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Staff Reporter

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has dismissed with costs an appeal by former president Jacob Zuma against a judgment of the North Gauteng High Court, which previously ruled that the state is not liable for legal costs that he incurred in his personal capacity.

This means Zuma might now have to pay back to the state about R25 million for his legal fees.

The case dates back to 2006 when his then legal team, Hulley Inc, asked the state attorney, on behalf of Zuma, for legal assistance in his criminal cases in which he faced two counts of corruption.

Zuma wanted Hulley Inc and four specified counsel to conduct the case on his behalf with the state footing the legal bill.

A similar request was also made in 2008.

He had now been indicted on the two counts of corruption as well as 12 of fraud and one each of racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion.

The two requests for state support each included an undertaking to refund the state should the court find that he acted in his personal capacity and own interest.

The High Court eventually found that the state was not liable for those costs and ordered Zuma to pay back the money.

Zuma appealed that ruling, but that appeal was opposed in court by the opposition DA and EFF.

The SCA, in its ruling, took the view that granting Zuma’s request was egregious as it was tantamount to giving him a blank cheque to pay his private lawyers.

It said a web of maladministration appears to have made that possible.

Many of the payments, according to the SCA, had no asserted legal basis.

It said the paying of Zuma’s legal fees by the state had a substantial effect on its resources as it was unplanned and could continue to occur.

Among his arguments, Zuma wanted the opposition to his application by the DA and the EFF thrown out as they had filed their papers late.

He further contended that even if the payment of his legal fees by the state was unlawful, the payments should continue because the DA and the EFF waited too long to take the matter on review.

The SCA said it found this “breathtakingly audacious”.

In his petition to the SCA, Zuma alleged that the High Court:

  • “essentially (gave) more weight to the political interests of the political parties involved than advancing [his] constitutional rights”;
  • would have made different findings if it had been acting “fairly and without bias”;
  • in having accepted the submission that he should approach the Legal Aid Board if he could not afford private representation, demonstrated “further evidence of bias”;
  • was “hell-bent on finding against (him) on any point possible; and”
  • has become accustomed to its trend of punishing me with costs all the time”.

The SCA however pointed out there was no basis for Zuma’s assertions.

It said no factual foundation had been laid for any of the allegations he raised which scandalised the courts.

The Bloemfontein-based court said there was nothing on the record to sustain the inference that the presiding judges in this particular matter or any other case involving Zuma were biased or that they were not open-minded, impartial or fair.

The allegations, said the SCA, were made with a reckless disregard for the truth.

The court said even after being asked by the EFF to withdraw the remarks, this did not happen.

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier

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MOVE GAZETTED . . . Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has disestablished Sedibeng Water

Staff and key assets from the embattled Sedibeng Water Board are set to be transferred to the Bloemwater and Magalies water boards following the gazetting of the move by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu last week.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement the development is in line with the minister’s commitment to review the country’s water boards to enable them to perform optimally while enhancing the delivery of water to municipalities and ultimately to households.

The decision to disestablish Sedibeng Water – which served Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Nala local municipalities, among others – means its staff, assets and liabilities will be absorbed by Bloemwater in the Free State and Magalies in Gauteng.

The move, according to Ratau, was initiated by the minister following his working sessions with provincial governments, various water services authorities and water boards regarding issues of governance, financial viability as well as accountability and broader service delivery issues after taking office in August last year.

“The review is based on considerations of financial sustainability, servicing areas that are not currently serviced and is also intended to address institutional confusion caused by having multiple water boards serving the same area,” said Ratau.

“The disestablishment of Sedibeng Water is in accordance with section 28 of the Water Services Act of 1997 which affords Minister Mchunu the authority to disestablish a water board.

“The gazette was published on Friday, 20 May 2022 and will remain open to the public for a period of 40 days.

“Members of the public and all interested parties are invited to make comments in writing on the disestablishment of the board.”

The department said it will ensure there is smooth transition of the disestablishment and that water service provision to communities is not affected.

Based in Bothaville, Sedibeng Water was established to, among others, treat wastewater and supply potable water in a viabile and sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, some of the municipalities served by the water board have struggled over the years to pay on time for the bulk water supplies even though residents have argued that they pay their monthly bills on time.

At the end of March this year, Sedibeng reportedly owed its service providers over R5-billion as it was struggling to secure payment from several municipalities. – Staff Reporter

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Guptas lose application to have restraint order case postponed

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NO SMILING MATTER . . . An interim restraint order against a company that Atul Gupta, seen in this file photo, co-owns with his brother and their wives remains in force

The Free State High Court on Friday dismissed a last-minute application brought by the directors of the Gupta-owned slandsite Investments 180 (Pty) to postpone the return day of the provisional restraint order against company, Iqbal Sharma and others.

Acting Judge Neil Snellenburg will provide a written judgment for dismissing the postponement application on Monday.

The directors sought a postponement pending their application to the Supreme Court of Appeal where they are appealing against a High Court ruling passed in August 2021 that said the business rescue practitioners of Islandsite, not the directors, have the authority to represent the company in the restraint proceedings.

Investigating Directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said in a statement the interim restraint order will remain in force until the next court hearing on 20 and 21 October, when the confirmation hearing is expected to be heard.

The assets under restraint include properties of Iqbal Sharma and his wife, his UAE-registered company, Issar Global, his wife Tarina Patel-Sharma, as well as all property of Islandsite, which is owned by Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their respective wives, Chetali and Arti Gupta.

The interim restraint order was granted in June 2021, in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act (POCA).

Sharma’s assets that form part of the curator’s inventory include his Sandton home valued at over R12-million.

The property was featured on the lifestyle television programme, Top Billing, and is owned by Issar Global.

Other assets include movable property valued at R500 000, a Porsche and a R1.3 million sectional title home in Sandton.

Properties owned by Gupta family company Islandsite that form part of the inventory include a house worth R21-million in Constantia, Cape Town, and a R12-million house in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.

Said Seboka: “The interim restraint order continues to run . . . that means the curator that is looking after the assets remains in place, meaning there is no chance for those assets being disseminated.

“The state is quite comfortable that the assets will not be taken abroad or be given to other people, in terms of the shares.

“They continue to be in safekeeping.

“For us that is pivotal and the court has found enough evidence in that respect.” – Staff Reporter

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Ex-MEC faces probe over failed R1-billion Free State housing project

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NO PROPER LEADERSHIP . . . Former Free State MEC for human settlements Mosebenzi Zwane criticised

The State Capture Commission wants former Free State MEC for human settlements Mosebenzi Zwane investigated for failing to provide “proper provincial leadership” in a failed R1-billion provincial housing project.

The department’s former head, Nthimotse Mokhesi, told the commission, led by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that his office had made an advance payment of more than R500-million to the project’s contractors before any work was done.

Described in the fourth part of the State Capture Commission’s report as a “dismal failure”, the housing project was dogged by several factors including a decision by former Free State premier Ace Magashule to build bigger RDP houses from the initial 40-square-metre units without consulting the provincial human settlements department and the contractors.

The commission found that Zwane, the human settlements MEC at the time, “failed to provide proper provincial leadership” with regard to the R1-billion housing project.

The report criticised Magashule for not monitoring projects and not holding Zwane accountable.

It said instead Magashule made Zwane the MEC for agriculture, “where he continued with his dismal performance”, resulting in the Estina/Vrede Dairy Farm collapse. – Staff Reporter

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