Durban — Legal expert advocate Mpumelelo Zikalala said former president Jacob Zuma’s legal team needs to strengthen their case against State prosecutor Billy Downer when the matter gets to the Constitutional Court.
The coastal Black Lawyers’ Association chairperson said this after Zuma’s trial was postponed again pending his appeal to the apex court to hear his recusal application against Downer.
The matter was postponed to October 17 in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday. Judge Piet Koen said that this date was a holding one depending on when the Constitutional Court would sit, and what the outcomes would be. The judge set November 7 as a provincial trial date, also depending on the outcome of Zuma’s appeal.
Zikalala said that to convince apex court judges who would be hearing the matter, Zuma’s legal team would have to strengthen their case and give substantial evidence of Downer’s alleged biases in the matter, adding that their points which they had argued in the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal were not strong enough to win the minds of the judges.
“For me, their arguments lack substance, but if they can work on that and provide the court with more substantiated evidence, maybe the judges would listen to them and rule in their favour,” said Zikalala.
Zuma’s legal team still insists that Downer has no prosecutorial certificate, therefore he should not preside over the matter and the State must replace him. It also argued he was biased in the matter, having leaked documents and discussed the case with journalist Sam Sole of Amabhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism.
Zuma had submitted the transcript where Downer and Sole were discussing the case as the basis for his (Downer’s) recusal in the case, arguing that he was compromised. The matter was dismissed by both the Pietermaritzburg High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal, but Zuma has taken the matter to the highest court in the country.
Reacting to the postponement, Zuma Foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi said the foundation had noted the postponement. The court, which is in recess, is expected to resume in the middle of this month.
Although there were a couple of police cars outside, and roads near the court were closed, it looked like the postponement was already known by Zuma's legal team and supporters. Zuma himself was not in court, and only a few family members from around Pietermaritzburg attended the case.
Even the leader of his legal team, advocate Dali Mpofu, was not present. Zuma together with French arms company Thales is facing corruption charges in relation to arms purchased by South Africa in 1999. The State alleges that Zuma used his then financial advisor Schabir Shaik as a conduit to solicit a R500 000 bribe from the company in order to protect it from investigations.