NPA warns against delay tactics as Zuma trial postponed
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Pietermaritzburg - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says it hopes former president Jacob Zuma's application for the recusal of lead prosecutor Billy Downer is not another delaying tactic.
Zuma appeared in the dock at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday. However, the start of the trial has been postponed and adjourned to May 26.
Zuma is on trial on charges of racketeering, two counts of corruption and 12 counts of fraud, nine of which are for allegedly making false income tax returns. He is charged along with French arms manufacturer Thales.
The start of proceedings saw Downer approaching Judge Piet Koen about an application for his possible recusal. Downer said he and the NPA had yet to see the application.
The prosecutor also maintained the NPA had not been given notice of the application plea.
Judge Koen meanwhile said, according to his knowledge, a plea application would be filed on behalf of the accused, Zuma, explaining the basis of the application.
In turn, the NPA would be given an opportunity to formally respond with an affidavit in response to the plea.
Advocate Thabani Masuku, for Zuma, said he accepted that at the next appearance on May 26 they would formally enter a plea application.
The section 106 plea application to be brought by Zuma deals with a prosecutor’s ability to prosecute an accused. Zuma's legal team is expected to thrash out, in an affidavit, why Downer should be recused from the case.
The application will be dealt with when the trial resumes.
NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema, who spoke outside the Pietermaritzburg Court following the adjournment, said ideally a section 106 plea application was brought when an accused wanted a prosecutor dismissed from a case.
Ngwema added Downer had been part of this matter for two decades and the NPA would have to see the reasons from Zuma as to why he should be recused.
“If successful, that is what it (the application) is supposed to do. But you must remember that this is based on the delegation. Therefore we need to understand what are they raising. We’ll see the application when it comes,” Ngwema said.
He added the NPA hoped Zuma was not embarking on another delaying tactic in bringing forward this application.
“We are hoping we will able to proceed as soon as possible so that this matter can be dispensed with. The prosecutor does not have prosecution authority.
’’An application is issued by the national director of public prosecutions. He (Downer) is a member of the NPA, and they have been dealing with this matter for the past two decades.
“We hope this is not a way of bringing back issues that have failed before with regard to the politicisation of this case in order to collapse the matter. The State is ready. We want a trial and we want it now.”