A lawyer whose firm is at the centre of a Public Protector probe into the alleged monopolisation of lucrative litigation outsourced by the State Attorney’s Office, was roped in to assist in the prosecution of former President Jacob Zuma, notes a Times Select report.

Asif Essa, the former president of the KZN Law Society and director of Cajee Setsubi Chetty, appeared with a team of heavyweight prosecutors at Zuma’s last court appearance in November ‘in case anyone needed photocopies’.

While the NPA said Essa had been ‘standing in’ for the State Attorney, three sources in the Pietermaritzburg legal fraternity described Essa’s presence as ‘bizarre’, says the report. The move by the state to enlist the services of a private lawyer for a criminal trial was unheard of, said the unnamed lawyers.

This is a criminal matter and does not require a correspondent attorney. It is a mystery how he came to be involved.

But Essa said he had fulfilled a supporting role.

I was asked to go and assist on the day. It was just in case they needed copies or anything.’

NPA spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson-Kara said Essa was not part of the prosecution team but had been ‘standing in’ for the State Attorney.

‘Mr Essa did not appear but was there as a correspondent attorney as the State Attorney dealing with this matter was unavailable. He (Essa) was asked to be available in the unlikely event of some problem.

As reported earlier, at the heart of the Public Protector complaint is that the State Attorney is accused of disproportionately allocating outsourced government litigation in Pietermaritzburg to a single firm – Essa’s firm.

Full Times Select report