Former President Jacob Zuma’s private prosecution case against state prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer and legal journalist Karyn Maughan has been adjourned to the 4th of August in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
This is to allow the court to deal with Maughan and Downer’s application to have the private prosecution set aside. This application will be heard in March.
Downer and Maughan who face criminal charges in terms of the NPA Act appeared briefly before Judge Emmanuel Chili in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
Zuma has instituted a private proseuction against them for allegedly unlawfully disclosing private documents. According to Zuma, Downer leaked his medical records to Maughan in his arms deal corruption case. In her application to have the private prosecution set aside, Maughan argues in court papers that Zuma did not obtain a nolle prosequi certificate against her. She says it was only obtained against Downer.
Legal expert, attorney Melusi Xulu says Maughan might have a reasonable argument in challenging the private prosecution.
“There is no mention of Miss Maughan but when you come to court then she’s added she might say but you know this is like she’s been saying it is an infringement of her rights to freedom of expression and she’s being harassed but we have to look at the fact that generally how it must be done when there is private prosecution. I think that is interesting thing, we will hear from the private prosecution team why did they add her at a later stage. This is my view if it was an afterthought to add her maybe they should have not brought the case to court but maybe that the matter to the police again to add her to get that second nolle prosecution certificate,” says Xulu.
Xulu adds that it would be impossible to continue with the private prosecution before the applications brought by the accused have been heard.
“It makes sense because I think both of them brought applications not only accuse 1 and accuse 2, they have to have time to deal with the application which they are raising to set aside the private prosecution. Then if they are not set aside on the 4th of August the process for private prosecution will obviously begin. We will have to wait until then to hear what the decision will be made before August. We don’t see anything being done much, we don’t see any finalization of this matter today because there are lots of issues, this case is connected to the arms deal and other issues, so it has to be dealt with and needs time for it to be dealt with sufficiently,” Xulu adds.
Postponing the matter, Judge Emmanuel Chili indicated that all parties agreed that Maughan and Downer’s applications needed to be heard first.
“It has been agreed and it is so ordered that the matter be adjourned to 4 August 2023. You are warned to appear in court on that date at 9:30 in the morning and remain in court until your name has been called out if you do not do that a warrant of arrest will be authorized by the way,” says Judge Chili.
The Pietermaritzburg High Court is expected to hear the applications to have the case set aside in mid-March. The judge who will hear the applications is yet to be announced.-Additional reporting by Nonkululeko Hlophe