Former president Jacob Zuma 
Picture: Dumisani Dube / African News Agency (ANA)
Former president Jacob Zuma Picture: Dumisani Dube / African News Agency (ANA)

Zuma lawyers, foundation gun for NPA and Judge President

By Sihle Mavuso Time of article published May 26, 2020

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Durban - The lawyers of former president Jacob Zuma and his foundation have expressed doubt their client will get justice when his arms deal corruption trial finally gets under way.

Their reservations come after it emerged the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has been in touch with KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Achamat Jappie over the case. However, the NPA told Independent Media on Monday the communication was conducted “in the normal course”. 

While the reservations of the communication from Zuma’s lawyers were only challenged via a confidential letter (which was later leaked), the foundation issued a statement about this on Tuesday.

Hot under the collar, the foundation said the most disturbing aspect about this was the fact the NPA’s lead prosecutor in the case, Advocate Billy Downer, SC had not only sought to negotiate the allocation of a trial date in 2021 but had also discussed the merits of the case with Judge Jappie.

It then indicated the conduct would be legally challenged but did not specify how. 

“While former president JG Zuma remains respectful of the independence of the country’s judiciary such incidents again cast a dark shadow on the fairness of the legal process and the prospects of a fair trial. The former president is at this point taking legal advice on how to address the situation within the legal remedies available to him in light of such gross violations,” it said.

Furthermore, it called on the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and the Judicial Services Commission to spring into action. 

“The foundation thus calls upon the Chief Justice and Judicial Services Commission to look into these developments with the view of restoring the integrity of the legal system of South Africa. The foundation reiterates that the injustice and prejudice that former president JG Zuma continues to suffer at the hands of the state is a violation of his right to be treated equally before the law and his right to a fair trial.”

However, some judiciary critics said Zuma stood no chance of successfully challenging the misconduct in any court. 

The full bench of the Pietermaritzburg High Court, which was hearing his failed permanent stay of prosecution in May last year kept on hinting that the previous misconduct by Advocate Leonard McCarthy and some politicians did not outweigh the need to prosecute him. 

In the letter from Eric Mabuza, Zuma’s new lead lawyer, the legal team was equally scathing, saying it was seriously concerned that Judge Jappie and Downer were running a parallel process. 

“It is indeed of grave concern to us and our client that the Honourable Judge President discussed with the state matters which are directly related to or are connected to or have a material bearing on the merits of the case,” he said. 

Mabuza added that understandably so, Zuma suspected that the ex parte discussions of the two were meant to disadvantage him during the trial..

“Unless a satisfactory explanation is given our client will be left with no choice but to suspect that there are attempts to manipulate the composition of the Bench which ought to hear this matter… Given the history of this matter and how he believes he has been persecuted by the system, he remains apprehensive and concerned by what appears to be secret and inappropriate discussions,” Mabuza stated in the letter.


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