It took our court over 8 years to begin acting harshly against senior government officials who are prepared to litigate to perpetuity using taxpayers monies to defend themselves from their self-inflicted legal problems. When the North Gauteng High Court handed down its unanimous judgment against former state President Jacob Zuma that he be held personally liable for not only his legal costs but also the costs incurred by other parties as well, our country breathed a collective sigh of relief. True to his character, the former President appealed this ruling but thankfully the new President will have none of it. As soon as he assumed office he decided that the state will not be party to funding any of Zuma’s cases.
I have observed that recently Zuma’s lieutenants, who have for years benefitted from their controversial relationship with the Gupta family, are following in his footsteps with this strategy of litigating as far as our legal system can permit them even when their cases are hopelessly unwinnable. Former Eskom boss Brian Molefe is on an ongoing journey to appeal his case which many legal pundits have already declared unwinnable. Tom Moyane has followed suit and has enlisted the help of Advocate Dali Mpofu to fight his case. Like his mentor Jacob Zuma, Tom Moyane wants the taxpayers to foot his legal bills. He argues that it is unfair that Cyril Ramaphosa should use taxpayer’s money to prosecute him while he is expected to fend for himself using his hard earned income to defend himself.
Even our highest court in the land, the constitutional court is getting tired of this destructive behaviour by individuals who want to abuse taxpayers monies to defend themselves. In the hearing headed by Judge Bernard Ngoepe to decide if Bathabile Dlamini acted in bad faith in her dealings on the Sassa debacle, the judge was scathing in his finding against her calling her a “less than satisfactory witness” who was evasive. It seems likely that she too will follow her former boss and be forced to foot the legal costs of litigation in the Sassa matter. Indeed the writing is on the wall for all those who believe that because they have a state blank cheque, they can use the strategy of appeal and appeal while ordinary people in our country who don’t have endless budgets will never get an opportunity to do so. This is indeed called equality before the law.
A new phenomenon has however reared its heard in our country where individuals with endless financial resources are intent on abusing our legal system to pursue their nefarious interests. A case in point is a matter that captures the headlines involving two Turkish businessmen who have investments in the mining industry in South Africa. In late April of this year, 2018, Abubekir Salim and Selim Kaymak woke up to learn from media coverage that an order of the court was granted against them the Pretoria High Court for several allegations of fraud and embezzlement of funds. The effect of this court was that they were removed from the Directorship of their own mining company and their business as well as their personal accounts were frozen with immediate effect. All these happened while the two businessmen were unaware that there were any court proceedings of any kind that involved them or their company even when they are full residents in the country.
What caught my eye is what they purport to be the motive why behind this strange turn of events. In a communique to their business stakeholders in the country they say, “After this story was reported in the South African media, their counterparts in Turkey also picked up the story but immediately drew a coincidental parallel tactic that was deployed against prominent business people in that country. This tactic basically involved the manufacturing and concoction of false evidence that includes fraud and other illegal acts against these businesses people. The results of all these acts are that such business people are summarily arrested and by the time the truth is uncovered their reputations are badly damaged in the eyes of the public. We believe in this case that we are the victims of a similar tactic.”
Even though their legal team were able to have this order immediately set aside; their directorship restored and accounts unfrozen; if what they are saying is indeed true, it introduces a new worrisome manner in which individuals can literally prostitute our legal system to serve their own interests. It is also testimony that our legal system is so vulnerable that people with ill intent but having the means can exploit and use our system to pursue their own wicked agendas. It is a phenomenon that introduces into our legal system a new form of virus that must not be allowed to spread unattended and be akin to what the likes of Zuma have done to destroy our country. In a country where the majority still live under a dark cloud of poverty and unemployment, we can ill afford for foreign elements to come into our country and use police resources to investigate manufactured cases; arrest people and take them through our legal processes just so that they can achieve a motive that has very little to do with us in this country. It is the kind of strategy that has to be nipped in the bud. It took many years for our country to arrest the bad public waste of our resources by individuals whose interests were only to fill their pockets in the midst of the triple ills of poverty, inequality and unemployment by abusing our legal system. It should not take yet another endless period for this foreign strategy to be recognised and tackled. These people have to be made aware that we are not about to waste our limited resources to finance theirhomegrown political and business rivalries and that these kinds of battles be better waged in their own countries.
Back home, I was recently a victim of the utter abuse of the legal systems by officers of the court where a magistrate who is a landlord conspired with a fellow magistrate to fast-track a case where she was an applicant. What chance do ordinary people have when officers of the court are themselves involved in corrupting the system of justice? A lot of the times we heap praises on the judiciary as the last line of defence in restoring the moral compass of or country but this instance that I saw first hand shook my own faith in the system and made me ask who will guard the guardians?
By: Fortunate Machaba