No such thing as ‘Zuma Law’ - judge slams claims former President is treated unfairly in court

Former president Jacob Zuma goes to the Gauteng High Court, Joburg for his private prosecution case against President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Timothy Bernard African news Agency (ANA)

Former president Jacob Zuma goes to the Gauteng High Court, Joburg for his private prosecution case against President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Timothy Bernard African news Agency (ANA)

Published May 18, 2023


Former president Jacob Zuma has raised an objection and complaint that his time to present his arguments at the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has been unfairly cut short, in what he calls is the manifestation of “Zuma Law” where only he is prejudiced in court.

This was his response, via his legal representative Advocate Dali Mpofu, to a full bench of judges Selby Baqwa, Lebogang Modiba and Mohammed Ismail when he was asked to conclude his arguments as he was well over the allocated time.

The showdown between President Cyril Ramaphosa and Zuma is continuing at the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg.

Judge Modiba told the court earlier that according to the practice notes, Mpofu will conclude his argument by 11am, the amicus curiae had been allocated 30 minutes and following that, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lawyers would be given an hour to reply. She said court would be expected to end by 1.30pm.

However, continuing his argument from yesterday, Mpofu began his address to court at 9.30am and went on until 11.30am - half an hour longer than his allocated time - before Judge Modiba asked him to stop.

After numerous warnings and reminders to Mpofu about his time management, Modiba told Mpofu that he has “consistently ignored” her directives on time.

However, after a short tea adjournment, Mpofu told the court he had been instructed by Zuma to raise a complaint that he is being prejudiced as the case was supposed to be set down for two complete days and should not end at 1.30pm which ultimately means the matter was set down for only one and a half days.

After a short break for the judges to deliberate on Mpofu’s request for more time, Judge Modiba told the court that Mpofu’s remarks on behalf of his client regarding “Zuma Law” was “utterly inappropriate”.

She said that there was no new law that only applied to Zuma and it was inappropriate for him to accuse the court of unfair treatment. She said that parties signed a practice note where they agreed to time allocated to each party, and while they were already working with a revised practice note, the court was flexible to further revised time.

“So when I mentioned in court that we revised times, we did not in any manner curtail times allocated to any party. In fact, Mr Zuma was allocated more time than even prescribed in the revised practice note.

“Yesterday, court was meant to adjourn at 4pm but we finished between 4.20pm and 4.30pm while Mr Mpofu was still on his feet. This morning, Mr Mpofu was further accommodated as we started at 9.30am [at the request of Mpofu] instead of 10am.

“The notion that this court is being unfair has no basis. This court has been very accommodating [to Zuma/Mpofu] ... which has been unfair to the other clients.

“This court has not treated Mr Zuma in any unfair or prejudicial manner. In fact, Mr Mpofu consistently ignored my warnings about time,” Modiba said.

She added that she had no confidence Mpofu would respect the extra time given, if granted, as he “operated on his own time”. The judge also told Mpofu to “tone down” his language yesterday while he addressed the court.

The matter, in which Zuma has accused Ramaphosa of not acting on a complaint he lodged against Downer and journalist Karyn Maughan last year and therefore sought private prosecution against the president on charges of being an accessory after the fact, relating to crimes in that case continuing.

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