OPINION

Ramaphosa must pay for his own legal costs – Mmusi Maimane

DA leader says citizens cannot be expected to pay President's bill in Bosasa matter

Ramaphosa must pay for his personal legal costs in defending Bosasa matter

3 July 2019

With the release of Public Protector, Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s final report into President Cyril Ramaphosa’s dodgy Bosasa dealings now imminent, reports suggest that Ramaphosa is preparing to take the report on legal review.

The President has every right to do so. However, South Africans cannot be expected to pay the legal bill for the President to defend himself against allegations of corruption, abuse of power, and money laundering. We contend that Ramaphosa would be required by law to pay for such legal action from his own pocket as he would be litigating in his personal capacity.

I have today approached President Ramaphosa in writing, requesting an undertaking that he will not use any public money to fund his legal action. In particular, the President must reassure South Africans that he does not intend to use the services of the State Attorney or cause the State Attorney to pay legal practitioners on his behalf relating to this matter.

South Africa is fast running out of money. We cannot afford to hand millions of rands to the President to fight his personal legal battles.

Following my complaint lodged in November 2018, the Public Protector is investigating whether Ramaphosa misled Parliament about the R500 000 "donation" received from Bosasa CEO, Gavin Watson, and the extent of the conflict of interest that exists between him, his son, Andile Ramaphosa and Bosasa. The Public Protector is also probing possible money laundering.

It is our view that the donation was not made to the President as then Deputy President, but rather as a private citizen in pursuit of elected office in the ANC. Similarly, if the Public Protector finds he did mislead the National Assembly, this would have been in respect of his actions as a private citizen.

A full bench of the North Gauteng High Court has set a precedent in this regard. In the Zuma legal costs judgment, the Court found that the State Attorney was wrong to cover former President Zuma’s legal expenses in a matter that was allegedly committed by Mr Zuma in his private capacity. In the event, the Court found –

'It is declared that the State is not liable for the legal costs incurred by Mr Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma (Mr Zuma) in his personal capacity in criminal prosecutions instituted against him, in any civil litigation related to or incidental thereto, and for any other associated legal costs.'

Mr. Ramaphosa himself was quoted by the Court in his support of the above, as follows -

And, as was said by President Ramaphosa, it is ‘a fundamental principle that public money should not be used to cover the legal expenses of individuals on strictly personal matters.'

This provides President Ramaphosa with a perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the people of South Africa that he is different to his predecessor by undertaking to pay his own legal fees.

No citizen is above the law, including the President. The DA will not stand for the abuse of state power by politicians and will make sure that elected representatives are held to account.

Issued by Mmusi MaimaneLeader of the Democratic Alliance, 3 July 2019