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From Zuma to Moyane: The legal cases ensnaring prominent SA officials

May 22 2018 08:18
Kululeko Ncana and Mike Cohen, Bloomberg

A slew of legal cases involving South African politicians and officials, including former President Jacob Zuma, are working their way through the courts, with some prominent public figures at risk of being jailed or losing their jobs.

This is the state of play of some of the most high-profile lawsuits:

Zuma’s graft trial

Zuma, who the ruling party forced to resign in February after a scandal-tainted tenure lasting almost nine years, is facing 16 charges ranging from corruption to racketeering that date back to the 1990s. After an April 6 court appearance, his case was adjourned until June 8.

Zuma denies wrongdoing and says he’s being pursued for political reasons.

His lawyers missed a deadline to challenge the prosecutor’s decision to proceed with the case, which had been dropped weeks before he became president in 2009 but was reinstated under a court judgment.

State prosecutor Billy Downer wants the trial to begin in November, a proposal Zuma’s lawyers are considering.

Zuma’s battle over legal fees

The North Gauteng High Court ruled last month that Zuma should be held personally liable for about R10m in legal fees related to his unsuccessful attempt to stop the release of a graft ombudsman’s report implicating his son’s business partners and a number of officials in the looting of state funds.

He plans to appeal the judgment.

The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, intends filing another lawsuit aimed at forcing Zuma to repay the state more than R32m in other legal fees incurred as he tried to fend off criminal charges and to personally cover the bill for his upcoming trial.

While the government says it will reclaim the fees from Zuma should he be found guilty, the opposition says the charges he faces had nothing to do with his official duties as president.

Top prosecutor’s fight to keep his job

The North Gauteng High Court ruled in December that Shaun Abrahams, the head of the National Prosecuting Authority, must vacate his post after an agreement Zuma reached with his predecessor, Mxolisi Nxasana, to step aside was found to be unlawful.

Abrahams appealed, and his case was heard by the Constitutional Court, which has yet to say when it will give a decision.

Zuma joined the appeal against Abrahams’s dismissal, but Cyril Ramaphosa withdrew from the case shortly after taking over from Zuma as president in February.

The opposition criticised Abrahams for repeatedly delaying decisions or refusing to prosecute Zuma and his allies. Abrahams has said he always complied with the law.

Former tax agency officials face spying allegations

Former tax agency officials Ivan Pillay, Johan van Loggerenberg and Andries Janse van Rensburg are facing charges that they illegally intercepted communication and entered into illicit contracts. They deny the allegations and say the charges are based on a discredited report compiled by audit firm KPMG that was subsequently withdrawn.

The case against them was driven by Tom Moyane, a close Zuma ally who headed the tax agency prior to being suspended. The trio appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s court last month and the trial was transferred to the High Court.

The case was postponed until June after the state stalled the handover of legal documents to defense lawyers.

Tax agency boss fends off dismissal

Ramaphosa suspended Moyane in March, saying he had lost confidence in him, and this month ordered him to face a disciplinary inquiry headed by former Constitutional Court Judge Kate O’Regan.

Moyane, who faces 12 misconduct charges and likely dismissal, has demanded that O’Regan recuse herself, saying she was potentially bias because she was a board member of Corruption Watch, a civil-rights group that had previously labeled him a treasonous criminal.

Ramaphosa has refused Moyane’s request for the state to pay his legal costs.

Moyane has indicated he’ll relinquish his post if he’s paid the equivalent of 18 months’ salary and has threatened to petition the Constitutional Court if he doesn’t get his way.

Ex-Eskom boss battles to retain his pension

Brian Molefe, who quit as head of state power utility Eskom Holdings after he was implicated in graft, rescinded his resignation and resumed his post before being fired. He’s waging a legal battle to retain a R30m pension payout he was awarded after less than two years on the job.

The North Gauteng High Court last month ruled the payment was illegal and Molefe should return R11m that he’d already received.

While the court refused him leave to appeal, he’s petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal to reconsider the finding. The appeal court has yet to say whether it will hear the case.

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