The question of when the public will see former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s completed report on what she declined to call state capture – but which everyone else does – was pushed far into the background on Wednesday morning as opposition political parties launched a concerted attack on Jacob Zuma’s pockets.

Instead of arguing against the release of the report, Zuma’s legal team unexpectedly (but to the evident joy of his opponents) walked away from attempt to interdict the release of the report at the beginning of proceedings in the high court in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Zuma’s advocate Anthea Platt said only she had been instructed not to argue the matter, nor to oppose an order on costs. She did not say why Zuma had suddenly capitulated.

On Tuesday co-operative governance minister Des van Rooyen was sent packing, with the full bench telling him his on-again, off-again attempt at a similar interdict was not urgent.
Mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane’s similar interdict attempt is only to be heard next week.

That left the status of the report, a copy of which is held by the court, though the judges said they have not read it, about as clear as mud.

The DA, one of the four political parties involved in the matter, attempted to argue for the immediate release of the report late on Tuesday afternoon, but its fellow opposition parties did not join in that attempt.

Legal speculation included the possibility that the court may simply open the safe containing its copy and provide it to the parties involved. But other experts said a conservative court would acknowledge that the report effectively belongs to the office of the public protector – and leave it up to Busisiwe Mkhwebane to release it.

But the many possibilities notwithstanding, hopes ran high.

“I expect to have a copy of it to read on the plane when I go back to Cape Town tonight,” the DA’s James Selfe told the Mail & Guardian shortly before court proceedings started.

The report itself and its publication rapidly faded into the background in court, however, as one opposition party after another argued that Zuma should be held personally liable for the legal costs of his now-abandoned application. Those costs would stretch to the cost of two counsel for each of five different legal teams.

In an argument that is ultimately about the misuse of state resources, all the parties agreed, Zuma had used state resources to protect himself in a personal capacity. The making of those arguments saw Zuma accused of trying to mislead the court and the nation, of setting up his son in business as a proxy for himself, and

The court should “show its disdain” for Zuma’s misuse of state resources in bringing the interdict case, counsel for the DA Etienne Labuschagne said. The law should not be used to shield the reputations of the corrupt, said UDM and Cope’s advocate Dali Mpofu. A President who had signed the legislation empowering the public protector was now asking a court to prevent that office from doing its constitutional duty, said Dumisa Ntzebeza on behalf of the EFF – while denying the nation the opportunity to hear him answer charges against him under oath.

Arguments on costs are expected to extend into the early afternoon.