Durban - Judgment has been reserved in former president Jacob Zuma’s latest court bid to have State advocate Billy Downer, removed from the arms deal case.
In arguments before the Pietermaritzburg High Court last week, the former president’s legal team said Zuma believes he will not get a fair hearing if Downer remains on the case.
This is Zuma’s second attempt to have Downer removed from the case and the former president’s counsel, advocate Dali Mpofu, said his client’s “human rights” had been affected.
Zuma has lost four court matters regarding his separate private prosecution against Downer for allegedly leaking his medical details to News 24 journalist Karyn Maughan. Zuma claims Downer breached the National Prosecuting Authority Act by doing this.
Zuma and his co-accused, French company Thales, face charges related to fraud, corruption and money laundering in connection with the arms deal that took place in the 1990s.
Mpofu told Judge Nkosinathi Chili that Zuma had filed an appeal bid with the Constitutional Court to try to overturn an order related to his private prosecution matter.
This comes after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled against Zuma in the private prosecution matter and dismissed his application for leave to appeal the order.
Mpofu said Zuma filed an application to appeal the enforcement of the ruling that invalidated the private prosecution, describing it as an abuse.
“What has since happened is that as of October 25, the application for leave to appeal in that matter was served. And I’ve just learnt now that, I think because of the time, the stamp of the Constitutional Court says the 26th,” Mpofu said.
“If he succeeds in his bid to force Downer’s removal with this application, he says the trial will still proceed – just with a different prosecutor,” the lawyer said, adding that the former president was legally entitled to an impartial prosecutor.
Mpofu argued that it was irrelevant whether Downer was acquitted of the charges or not, saying the fact that Zuma has pursued him as an accused means that he should not continue to prosecute him.
He said Zuma was not to blame for the current year-long delay in the trial, saying this was as a result of the State’s refusal to acquiesce to the former president's demands that Downer must be removed.
Counsel for the NPA, Advocate Geoff Budlender, said Zuma had not pointed to any evidence that he would not receive a fair trial if Downer continued as a prosecutor in the matter.
He said the SCA’s recent findings that Zuma’s attempted private prosecution of Downer was an abuse was aimed at forcing the prosecutor’s removal from his trial and this finding was binding on the high court.
“The complaints raised have already been conclusively dealt with by multiple other courts,” he said.
Budlender said a full bench had already found that the private prosecution that Zuma attempted to pursue against Downer was without merit.
He said it could not be “conceivably in the interests of justice” for the former president to be allowed to continue to re-argue matters that have already been “conclusively dealt with by the courts over and over and over again”.