The lead prosecutor in former president Jacob Zuma’s ongoing arms deal corruption case has successfully extracted a reversal of allegations of deep prejudice against him from Zuma and his legal team.
BREAKING: former President Jacob Zuma has agreed to strike out allegations he made against his prosecutor Billy Downer – incl that Downer “hated” him and longed for the days of apartheid-era prosecutions. No order as to costs.
— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) May 23, 2019
Last month Advocate Billy Downer took issue with with how Zuma had referred to him in his answering affidavit.
Zuma claimed Downer had a personal hatred for him and that he may even have been having “withdrawal symptoms” from apartheid. He even implied that Downer was two-faced and had an “aversion” to the truth, effectively labelling him a liar, which Downer believed amounts to statements that were “scandalous and vexatious” and “untrue and unwarranted”.
Downer asked for more than a dozen such accusations and characterisations against him withdrawn before the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, and for Zuma to personally bear the costs of Downer’s application.
This finally took place on Thursday morning, though there was no immediate ruling on costs, according to journalist Karyn Maughan.
Downer had expressed concern that the state’s case and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) were being prejudiced by Zuma and his legal team’s personal attacks on him.
Downer has a long history with the case, having secured a corruption conviction against Zuma’s financial adviser Schabir Shaik in 2005, which led to Zuma stepping down as deputy state president in Thabo Mbeki’s government.
Earlier this year, Zuma claimed in his affidavit that no one else in South Africa had supposedly suffered as much “personal and political prejudice” since the dawn of democracy in the country.
He accused the NPA of mistreating and humiliating him, to such an extent that his suffering has been unparalleled.
Zuma and his lawyers have repeated long-held claims that the arms deal investigation against him was politically manipulated and processes were abused, and that Zuma became a “career obsession” for some prosecutors, especially Downer.
In response, the NPA on Thursday outlined in court how it believed former president Jacob Zuma had been the one who’d used extensive litigation, known as the Stalingrad defence, to delay being prosecuted on fraud and corruption charges.
He had used a consistent pattern of litigation, designed ultimately to delay prosecution, argued advocate Wim Trengove, acting for the state. Trengove spoke before a full bench of the Pietermaritzburg high court, arguing against the stay of prosecution being sought by Zuma and French arms company Thales. Zuma and his defence team, as well as Thales’ lawyers, were present in court.
Both are facing criminal charges relating to numerous alleged acts of fraud and corruption committed during the so-called arms deal of the 1990s.
The defence teams for Zuma and Thales made their submissions on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, on why the case should be permanently dropped, citing, among other reasons, an unreasonable delay in prosecution, which they said was unconstitutional.
On Thursday, Trengove said there was no evidence of political interference and that conspiracy theories without it were not sufficient motive to stay a prosecution.
He said when seeking a stay of prosecution, a balance had to be struck between the rights of those accused and the public and a determination had to be made if the stay was in the interests of justice. The motives for prosecution were, he said, irrelevant.
“There is great public interest in seeing this case prosecuted,” said Trengove. It was important, he said, that Zuma was seen as being treated equally in the eyes of the law, despite his high public profile.
The NPA’s submissions were expected to continue until the afternoon when Thales’ application would be dealt with in more detail.
Downer will be prosecuting at the trial – set down for later this year – should the judgment after this week’s submissions be in favour of the state.