Taxpayers will keep paying Zuma’s legal fees – Cyril Ramaphosa

Ex-President will have to pay back the money though if courts rule he acted in his personal capacity, says President

Zuma will pay his legal fees... if court orders him to - Ramaphosa

Cape Town - Former president Jacob Zuma will pay his legal fees from his own pocket if the courts rule he had acted in his personal capacity, President Cyril Ramaphosa has told Parliament.

Ramaphosa confirmed in the National Assembly on Wednesday that the State has paid a total of R15.3m for Zuma's personal legal fees since 2006.

Of that, R7.5m was spent on the period, from 2006 until the withdrawal of corruption charges against him in 2009. Since 2009, an additional R7.8m was spent.

The basis of the legal aid was an agreement reached by Zuma and the Presidency in 2006 under then president Thabo Mbeki, on advice from the State Attorney's office and the Department of Justice.

"The former president signed an undertaking to refund the State if he was found to have acted in his personal capacity and own interests in the commission of offences of which he was charged," Ramaphosa said during his maiden question session to the House.

"This administration is guided by the fundamental principle that State money should not be used to cover the legal fees of individuals on strictly personal matters and are found to have committed criminal offences," he said.

Malema not happy with response

But this was not enough for EFF MP Julius Malema, who had asked the original question. The figure, including the Nkandla saga and others, was probably closer to R64m, he claimed.

"I am not aware of that amount," Ramaphosa answered.

"We are using the agreement struck before former president Zuma and the government, on the understanding that the money will be paid back if he has been found to be personally responsible for these acts."

"He must pay it back!" shouted a few DA MPs.

Ramaphosa continued. There was also an argument that Zuma, while not president of the country, was still a government employee at the time of the conduct, and the charges relate to his work in government.

If the court makes a different assessment, it will be up to the courts, and they would wait for the outcome.

"Right now, because the agreement is still in place, there is simply no way we can say in violation of agreement that was reached, he must pay the cost."

Malema and EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu also wanted to know what law or legal basis the State relied on in forming the agreement.

"I will need to check that more closely," Ramaphosa admitted.

Malema again was not happy.

"I have written a question to him two weeks ago, and he says he must get back to me. What is the point of writing a question?"

Ramaphosa admitted he thought he had answered the question as was written.

"Clearly you are not happy, and I undertake to get the information for you," Ramaphosa said, placating the increasingly boisterous Malema.

"Now that is being presidential," a smiling Malema remarked before sitting.

"Date and time!" yelled Shivambu.

Ramaphosa promised that the agreement, signed by Zuma in 2006, will also be made available in the court proceedings, and that they would keep an eye on the case.

"Pass it along," chirped Democratic Alliance chief whip John Steenhuisen. - News24

Ramaphosa says there will be 'broad discussion' on expropriation without compensation

President Ramaphosa said the land reform debate should not be reduced to a debate about expropriation without compensation.

He was answering questions in the National Assembly, where DA leader Mmusi Maimane asked him about the full details of the government's plan to expropriate land without compensation.

Ramaphosa highlighted the unequal distribution of land in South Africa.

"This is the historic task we have as South Africans, to address this once and for all," Ramaphosa said.

He said there will be a process of broad consultation.

"No plan!" interjected DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis.

'Radical instrument'

Ramaphosa called on everyone to participate in the national debate.

"This, madam Speaker, is an opportunity to assert the transformative intent of our Constitution."

He went on to explain how Section 25 of the Constitution, the property clause, which will have to be changed to allow expropriation without compensation, is a "radical instrument" and "was conceptualised with a view that we need to change the property structure in South Africa".

"Why change it then?" interjected DA chief whip John Steenhuisen.

He then read from a news report, about how the DA's mayor in Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, intended using expropriation without compensation, with the DA applauding and the ANC laughing.

Mashaba later in a statement said the president "misrepresented the City of Johannesburg’s position" on land reform.

"It is my belief that the Constitution, in its present form, is not an impediment to land reform. I do not believe a Constitutional amendment is required to achieve land reform, and I do not support expropriation without compensation."

He said his administration aimed to use existing legal framework to "expropriate hijacked and derelict buildings".

Ramaphosa said it was not revolutionary to tell people to occupy land and warned against "swart gevaar (black danger)" electioneering.

"This is the time for everyone to stop pontificating and come forward with solutions," he said.

"No plan!" several DA MPs yelled.

'You can't have both'

In his follow-up question, Maimane asked how he would reconcile expropriation without compensation, with economic growth.

"You can't have both!" he said.

"It is quite clear the honourable (DA leader) Mmusi Maimane is not listening," Ramaphosa started his reply.

He said the governing party said there must be a broad discussion on whether the Constitution should be amended or not.

"Backpaddling!" said Steenhuisen as he made a paddling motion with his hands.

Ramaphosa said they were very clear that they were not going to damage the economy or food production.

He said he had heard from Afrikaans-speaking farmers, who asked him: "Hoe kan ons help? [How can we help?]".

Ramaphosa condemned, as he did several times previously, illegal land occupations, or "smash and grab" as he called it, without answering AIC MP Lulama Ntshayisa's question on what the government will do to stop it.

'Our people are all South Africans'

He started to answer FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald's questions in Afrikaans, before switching to English and saying: "We should not be too angry, too scared, too anxious to get into this debate."

When Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota got up to ask a question, the ANC groaned and the DA applauded.

"I am very, very concerned that we suddenly no longer all are South Africans," said Lekota.

"Who are our people and who are not our people?"

"Jirrrrrr," someone muttered in the ANC benches.

"Our people are all South Africans," said Ramaphosa.

He said there was an emphasis on people who were poor and landless.

"These are the people whose lives we want to improve."

"I don't know exactly what your lack of understanding is," he said to Lekota. - News24