'Do the right thing' and cancel Zuma legal fees deal - Maimane asks Ramaphosa

DA leader Mmusi Maimane has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa requesting him to do "the right thing" and cancel a deal in terms of which the Presidency agreed to foot the legal bill of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

"I hereby respectfully request that you cancel the deal the Presidency entered into a decade ago with former president Jacob Zuma in which it was agreed that his past and future legal fees in defence of corruption charges against him would be paid for by the state," Maimane wrote in the letter, which was made available to the media.

READ: Kodwa downplays reports that Ramaphosa wants 'frank discussion' with Zuma

Maimane mentioned the ruling of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in December 2018 that Zuma should foot his legal bill himself.  

"It comes as no surprise that Mr Zuma is appealing this ruling, given that this has always been his modus operandi: to delay the course of justice at the taxpayer's expense," Maimane wrote.

"This deliberate delay has been going on for over a decade and has already cost South Africans tens of millions of rands. Mr Zuma's appeal will only serve to delay justice further in a country that is crying out for justice, and which you have promised a new era of accountability. 

"The DA will oppose this latest appeal in court, but you can avoid this costly and unnecessary process by doing the right thing."

Clean break

He also wrote that cancelling the deal with Zuma would represent a "clean break with South Africa's damaging and frustrating past". 

"It would send a clear message to the nation that public money will no longer be abused for personal ends and that all South Africans - including public representatives - will be equal before the law going forward."

Maimane also requested that Ramaphosa make public the terms of the deal and the amount of money "that taxpayers have to date stumped up in defence of his alleged corruption".

"In the spirit of transparency, which you have promised - and since they have footed the bill to date - taxpayers have a right to know. South Africans are tired of murky backroom deals at their expense. They deserve the honest truth," Maimane added.

"It is time to put your country before your party. On behalf of South Africans, please cancel the deal and give us a clean break with the past."

In the accompanying statement, Maimane said: "Cyril Ramaphosa's forked tongue approach to corruption must come to an end."

"He cannot talk seriously about tackling corruption in his party and in his government, and at the same time continue to allow public money to be used to fund Jacob Zuma's decade-long plan to escape accountability. He must choose. And he should choose to cancel this illegitimate agreement," Maimane said.

Frank discussion

The Sunday Times reported that Ramaphosa wanted to have a "frank discussion" with Zuma about his public comments, which diverted from the ANC's official policies.

These include recent statements advocating for the nationalisation of land - in line with the EFF's policy - and his denial of state capture, despite the party's support for the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.

On Sunday, ANC head of presidency acting national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa downplayed reports that a meeting would be held to discuss Zuma's recent public comments.

He confirmed that a meeting between the two was scheduled, but said it was a standard meeting that often took place between ANC presidents and their predecessors.

On Saturday, the ANC tweeted a picture of Ramaphosa sitting next to Zuma, both of them smiling broadly, at the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) meeting. 

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