Former President Jacob Zuma’s application for leave to appeal the dismissal of his special plea by the Pietermaritzburg High Court will be heard on Monday. Judge Piet Koen dismissed Zuma’s plea in which he asked for the recusal of Advocate Billy Downer in October last year and set the trial date for 11 April.
The former president filed a plea under Section 106 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which deals with a prosecutor’s title to prosecute. Zuma is expected to request Judge Piet Koen to grant him leave to appeal his judgment with the belief that the Supreme Court of Appeal might come to a different conclusion on the matter.
In the special plea application, Zuma’s counsel cast doubt on Advocate Downer’s impartiality. He argued that if Downer was to prosecute during Zuma’s fraud and corruption trial, the former president would not get a fair trial.
The state argued that Zuma’s arguments had been decided on already during his unsuccessful application for a permanent stay of prosecution. Dismissing the special plea, Judge Piet Koen said Zuma’s argument was based on speculation or suspicion or inadmissible hearsay – not on facts.
“Any challenge involving an alleged lack of independence or bias, or similar complaint as alleged by Mr Zuma should have been raised in a substantive separate application for the removal of the prosecutor. Such an application had apparently been pursued and was by agreement counsel on that matter considered by the Supreme Court of Appeal but dismissed on its merits. In the present matter, there is no such application before this court for adjudication. I conclude that Mr. Zuma’s complaints even if taken at face value do not affect the quote title, the special plea, therefore, falls to be dismissed. I conclude in the regard to the 14 special grounds raised committing on each individually that many were based on speculations or suspicion or were based on inadmissible hearsay evidence and not on facts, even if at limited instances they might at best qualify as possible irregularities, these irregularities were not such as to require the removal of Mr. Downer as a prosecutor and did not deprive him title even in the extended sense of that word contended for by Mr. Zuma to prosecute.”
Earlier, the Zuma Foundation indicated that they may challenge the ruling on the matter pertaining to Advocate Downer’s alleged leaking of information regarding Zuma’s health to the media. This was dismissed by Judge Piet Koen as based on hearsay and not on fact.
Zuma is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500 000 from French arms company Thales in exchange for using his political position to stop investigations into the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal of the 1990s.
The bribe was allegedly facilitated by Zuma’s convicted former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik.
A timeline of the arms deal case: