Judgment in Zuma’s leave to appeal case expected on 16 February

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The High Court in Pietermaritzburg is expected to deliver judgment in former President Jacob Zuma’s application for leave to appeal the dismissal of his special plea, on 16 February. Judge Koen dismissed Zuma’s special plea in October last year, in which the former president argued that State Prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer does not have the title to prosecute the corruption case.

The defence is arguing that Downer is guilty of misconduct and biased against Zuma.

Zuma’s legal team has applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal to seek clarity whether, title to prosecute, should be seen in narrow terms, as being properly appointed.

They argue that a prosecutor’s conduct should also be considered if a person’s right to a fair trial is impacted. Downer has been prosecuting allegations of fraud and corruption in connection with the arms deal in which Zuma has been implicated for the past 20 years.

Zuma’s Advocate Dali Mpofu told the court that it would not be in the interest of justice for his client to wait until the end of his corruption trial to raise an objection that could impact whether or not he received a fair trial.

“Because it cannot be that he is told by this court that this matter must be dealt with here. And then when he comes here, he is told the matter is res judicata. That means there is no court in this world where he is able to raise this issue. He must be caught in this merry-go-round of judicial passing of the buck.”

The Pietermaritzburg High Court’s proceedings on former President Jacob Zuma matter:

However, State Prosecutor Advocate Andrew Breitenbach argued that the trial court should weigh up whether Zuma received a fair trial, only at the end of his criminal trial.

“Mr. Zuma’s case in as far as getting a fair trial is concerning because of involvement of Mr. Downer, the proof will be in the file itself, evidence will be led. Once that is done this court will be in the possession to assessing that contention.”

Breitenbach further argued that much of the facts raised in the complaint Zuma laid with the police against Downer in October last year is a repeat of the grounds they raised in the plea explanation.

Breitenbach says many of these grounds have no bearing on Downer.

“Before the evidence, it must be such that when it is accepted, it could easily lead to a certain verdict or sentence. That is the most important words verdict or sentence. Our position is that none of the three allegations on the 21st of October which do concern Mr. Downer justify a finding in his favour on the special plea, let alone his acquittal in terms of Section 164.”

Meanwhile outside court, a small group of Zuma’s supporters gathered. They reiterated their long-standing view that the former president has been receiving unfair treatment by the courts.

“I am very angry; I think his rights have been trampled. The courts are biased,  Zuma is not treated fairly by the courts. All we want is for Zuma to be treated like all people and his rights be respected like any other citizen, he should not be treated like an animal,” says one of the supporters.

Another supporter: “This is a man who fought for our freedom. This case has a political conspiracy against Zuma. There are many wrong things happening in court. This is an old man, why are they determined and hell-bent to see him going to jail. We, the people, are not happy with this.”

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says it is still considering the criminal case against Advocate Downer. Zuma opened a criminal case against Downer, accusing him of leaking confidential medical records to the media.

Legal Expert Willam Booth on the case: