Zuma says no political motive in private prosecution of Ramaphosa

Former President Jacob Zuma says he had no ulterior motives when he attempted to privately prosecute President Cyril Ramaphosa. File Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

Former President Jacob Zuma says he had no ulterior motives when he attempted to privately prosecute President Cyril Ramaphosa. File Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 12, 2023


Durban - Former president Jacob Zuma has filed papers in the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, saying that his attempt at including President Cyril Ramaphosa in his private prosecution matter was not driven by a political motive and was not aimed at preventing him from becoming ANC president for a second time.

Ramaphosa has asked that the court declare the summons issued by Zuma as unlawful, unconstitutional, invalid and of no force, and to grant a final interdict preventing Zuma from pursuing him in a private prosecution “now and in the future”.

Zuma argues that there were no ulterior motives in his call for Ramaphosa to be included in the private prosecution and asks the court not to make the interdict final.

Zuma, in the private prosecution he brought, claims senior state advocate Billy Downer and journalist Karyn Maughan both contravened the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act as Downer allegedly, as an accessory, leaked a report disclosing his confidential medical condition to Maughan.

Maughan and Downer’s lawyers have argued, in separate applications, that Zuma’s summons should be dismissed, while they also asked for interdicts stopping him from taking any similar action against them.

The former president in his heads of argument said he included Ramaphosa in the private prosecution after writing to him and asking that he ensure an urgent inquiry was carried out into Downer’s alleged misconduct in handing Maughan his confidential medical information which was then published.

Zuma argues Ramaphosa did not respond effectively to the demand for an urgent inquiry and therefore became an accessory after the fact, by assisting Downer and Maughan to evade accountability for contravening section 41 (6) of the NPA Act.

He said the allegation of abuse of process is based on the grounds that the charges “could never lead to a successful prosecution”.

“There is however no evidence whatsoever to gainsay Mr Zuma’s articulated belief that the charges are valid and will lead to a conviction. Abuse of process is a subjective issue. It is different to the objective question of prospects of success. In other words even if the accused person will eventually be acquitted or even discharged in terms of section 174 of the CPA, it does not follow that the prosecution was malicious or abusive.”

Zuma said in the present case the accusations of both ulterior motive and abuse of process are squarely premised on the allegation that the timing of the delivery of the summons was deliberately and specifically chosen to coincide with the first day of the ANC conference in which Ramaphosa was a candidate for re-election as ANC president.

Zuma said no court of law could find that Ramaphosa had discharged the heavy onus to establish abuse of process and/or ulterior motive for two important reasons.

“Firstly, the First Respondent (Zuma) has denied in sufficient detail that the timing was related to the start of the ANC conference in the manner suggested by the applicant. Secondly, the charge of abuse on this ground cannot be genuinely made by this particular applicant, with a straight face nor can it be upheld by a South African court without attracting the valid criticism of inconsistency.”