Counting the crippling costs of the Oscar trial

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Oscar Pistorius looks on during his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, May 13, 2014.

JOHANNESBURG – The high profile Oscar Pistorius murder trial, which started close-on four months ago and is set to continue on Monday, has been an expensive affair.

The trial has sat in the North Gauteng High Court’s courtroom GD for 33 days, and according to Pistorius’s advocate Barry Roux, it is likely to continue for “a few more weeks”.

The matter was originally set down for three weeks, starting on March 3. But it has far exceeded that, and still there is no end yet in sight.

So how much has the case cost the state?

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube said he could not say.

“The reason why I cannot say, is because this was not an isolated project with its own expenses. [State prosecutor] Gerrie [Nel] and [his co-prosecutor] Andrea [Johnson] and those people are all paid by us. And they work on a lot of cases – not just this one,” Mncube said.

But for the accused, who has to fund his own defence, the costs are enormous.

Several media reports on the costs Pistorius is facing estimate that just his legal team is costing him almost R100 000 per day in court.

Beeld newspaper broke down the costs as senior counsel Barry Roux at R35 000 a day, Advocate Kenny Oldwage at R24 000 a day and Brian Webber at R20 000 a day plus junior staff.

On top of this, he would have had the costs of the entire trial preparation, as well as the costs of all his expert witnesses.

Another high profile trial, also prosecuted by Nel and his team, was that of disgraced former police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

Selebi was charged with corruption and defeating the ends of justice. He went on trial on April 8, 2010 and was found guilty of corruption on July 10, 2010. On August 3, 2010 he received a 15 year jail sentence which he unsuccessfully appealed.

He began his prison sentence on December 3, 2011, but received medical parol in July 2012 after serving just 229 days of his sentence.

He remains at home in Waterkloof where he receives dialysis treatment for his kidney illness. Last October he was spotted out shopping in Pretoria in a chauffeured luxury BMW.

Selebi’s legal costs, paid for by the state, amounted to R17,4-million. Because he was found guilty he is supposed to pay the costs himself, but has yet to do so. He may not be required to pay the full amount because he was not found guilty on all the charges against him.

The Boeremag treason trial, arguably South Africa’s most expensive court case, took more than 10 years to finalise.

It started in 2003 and the accused were only convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2013. Legal Aid SA paid out more than R36-million.

President Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial cost the State about R5,3-million in his legal fees.

In President Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial, one junior counsel charged between R15 000 and R18 000 a day while another was paid a daily rate of R21 000.

Zuma’s senior counsel, Kemp J Kemp, charged between R24 000 and R36 000 a day. Other silks charge daily rates of between R40 000 and R60 000.

In total, the State paid about R5.3-million for Zuma’s corruption trial.

Pistorius has since sold his home in order to cover his crippling legal costs. The luxury unit in Silverwoods Estate, where the Palalympian shot and killed his girlfriend, sold for “between R4-million and R5-million”.

His total legal costs have not been publicly disclosed.

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