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S.Africa’s Zuma loses bid to appeal personal cost order

A South African court on Thursday dismissed former president Jacob Zuma’s attempts to appeal against a high court order to pay his own legal fees, estimated at around 10 million rand ($727,200).

The South African constitutional court in the economic hub of Johannesburg dismissed his appeal “with costs”, including the fees of two lawyers, in a virtual online hearing.

The ruling upheld judgments from two lower courts that Zuma pay the costs out of his own pocket.

Zuma had appealed against a high court judgement against him in 2018 after he failed to stop the release of a report written by an anti-corruption watchdog that charactered him as a kingpin of patronage and malfeasance.

He argued that as he had been acting in his capacity as the president at the time, the state should pay the costs.

But applicants in the case on Thursday, including two opposition parties and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), argued that Zuma had not even managed to file some of the required documents for his argument.

Both the embattled former president and his lawyers were absent from the virtual proceedings.

The ruling is a blow for the 79-year-old Zuma, who is also fighting corruption charges in a criminal trial relating to an arms deal, which began on Tuesday following a two decade delay.

Zuma denies 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to the 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military gear from five European arms firms for 30 billion rand, then the equivalent of nearly $5 billion.

In April, the Supreme Court of Appeal turned down Zuma’s appeal of a personal cost order relating to his corruption trial.

Here again, he was trying to overturn a Pretoria High Court ruling directing him to pay back the state more 16 million rand ($1.16 million) in legal fees.

Zuma was forced to step down in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party after a nine-year reign marked by corruption allegations and dwindling popularity.