Zuma special plea to be heard on July 19, hoping for dismissal of charges
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Former president Jacob Zuma says he does not believe the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) lead prosecutor, Billy Downer SC, will be impartial and independent to ensure he is prosecuted fairly.
This belief forms part of Zuma’s special plea application, which will be argued on July 19.
Zuma appeared at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday. Zuma and his co-accused, French arms manufacturer Thales, pleaded not guilty to 16 charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering.
The trial has been postponed to July 19 for various responding affidavits to be filed by the NPA and Zuma’s legal team addressing Zuma’s special plea application.
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The former president lodged a special plea application that falls under section 106 (4) of the Criminal Procedure Act, seeking to have Downer removed as a prosecutor in his case.
Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing Zuma, read out parts of Zuma’s arguments seeking Downer’s removal. Zuma argues that “Downer has lost his independence and impartiality”.
Mpofu cited various examples, including Downer’s supporting affidavit in the DA’s application to have the NPA's decision to drop corruption charges against Zuma reviewed.
Former NPA head Mokotedi Mpshe had in 2009 decided to drop the corruption charges against Zuma, citing concerns over “spy tapes” which raised questions of the basis of the case against Zuma.
The DA had litigated against this move and Downer had filed a supporting affidavit.
Zuma said Downer had supported a political party that used his legal charges as a political weapon against him.
“The accused is of the view that his right to a fair trial is what is at stake. Mr Downer placed evidence before the court to support the DA in the relief that was sought.
’’Given that his affidavit was signed against the NPA, he placed himself in a position I cannot reasonably believe he can be impartial and independent to prosecute my case fairly.
“Supporting a political party application creates a reasonable belief that he is not impartial and independent,” Zuma argued.
Zuma hopes that if his plea application for Downer’s removal succeeds, he should be entitled to a dismissal of the charges against him.
Judge Piet Koen said the matter had been postponed to July 19.
Downer, who shook his head as Mpofu read out some of the claims against him, said the NPA plans to dispute the allegations made by Zuma.
Downer will not be involved in arguing the plea as his independence is in question. The NPA has appointed four advocates to deal with the special plea, NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema confirmed.
The prosecutors who will deal with the matter include well-known legal advocate Wim Trengrove SC, advocate Andrew Breitenbach SC, advocate Hephizibah Rajah and advocate Ncumisa Mayosi.