John Block & co must pay back taxpayer-funded legal fees

By Andrew Louw  MPL, DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader:

John Block and his co-accused in the Trifecta trial must pay back any money spent by the state on their legal fees incurred during the Trifecta corruption trial.

The DA will refer the matter to the Office of the Public Protector for an official investigation. This comes after the Office of the Premier yesterday confirmed that the Northern Cape Department of Social Development has paid legal fees for the late Yolanda Botha in the Trifecta case.

The Office of the Premier has meanwhile refrained from commenting on the payment of legal fees for the other accused, specifically John Block and Alvin Botes.

In as far back as 2010, the DA submitted a parliamentary question to then Premier, Hazel Jenkins, asking whether any government entities had contributed towards paying Blocks bail money and legal fees. To date, a reply on this question has not been forthcoming.

Given this obvious and ongoing lack of transparency, it therefore cannot be ruled out that the state has also been covering the legal costs for Block and Botes.

The DA is of the firm view that the state should not be liable for the enormous legal costs associated with corruption charges.

While it is common practice in countries around the world to pay such costs when charges relate to the carrying out of official duties, it is certainly not so when, as in this case, the charges relate to possible criminal misconduct and are wholly unrelated to the work of the state.

If the state has taken it upon itself to foot this growing legal bill, they are implying that it is a normal part of the duties of MEC’s and senior officials to solicit bribes.

The DA will submit additional parliamentary questions to Social Development MEC, Mxolisi Sokatsha, to probe the department’s expenditure on legal fees.

The Social Development Department has an important mandate to both uplift the people of this province and to provide a safety net for them. The spending of taxpayers’ money on corruption cases instead of on programmes that curb social ills and provide assistance to those in need, is a cardinal sin, and simply cannot be tolerated.