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Yet another postponement in Zuma and Thales fraud and corruption trial

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Published Apr 18, 2023


Johannesburg - The fraud and corruption trial against former president Jacob Zuma and French Arms company Thales, as expected, was postponed to 15 and 16 August 2023.

Zuma was physically at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu Natal on Monday, his body language appeared relaxed and in good spirits.

The trial has to do with allegations that Zuma accepted a bribe from Thales.

The former statesman brought a new application to have lead prosecutor advocate Billy Downer removed from the matter.

The last time the matter was in court was in January this year when Judge Piet Koen recused himself from the case. Koen then said he was doing so in the interest of justice.

The matter was then handed to Judge Nkosinathi Chili.

“As per agreement, this matter is adjourned to 15 and 16 August 2023 for the hearing of Zuma’s second application for the removal of SC Downer as a prosecutor in the criminal trial. That application is set to run for two days,” Chili said.

He said the state had to file answering papers by no later than 26 May 2023, and Zuma had to reply no later than 19 June 2023.

The state requested for the criminal trial date. However, Chili said at this stage, he did not think it was necessary for him to make order with regards to the trial date for criminal prosecution.

“I make no order with regards to the hearing of the criminal prosecution at this stage,” Chili said.

Some of the witnesses are excised from attending court then.

In his founding affidavit, Zuma said he deemed it relevant to point out that he is the prosecutor in the related private prosecution under case number CC52/2022P.

“This is an interlocutory application in which I primarily seek relief in the form of the removal and/or recusal of Downer as prosecutor in this matter. In light of all the grounds I shall state in this application relating to Downer, I believe I can no longer have a fair trial, as guaranteed in section 35 of the Constitution, if Downer remains the prosecutor in the matter. The evidence is that his overall conduct in relation to my prosecution is inconsistent and incompatible with my right to a fair trial. He lacks the legal and constitutional attributes to prosecute my trial in a fair manner and in accordance with my guaranteed constitutional rights in 35(3) of the Constitution, said Zuma.

He further said: “Since the adjudication of my section 106 plea application, ample new evidence has emerged which confirms my belief that Downer is not fit to prosecute my criminal trial by reason of disqualifying bias and a lack of the requisite prosecutorial independence. I say so for the following reasons:

6.1. With effect from 5 September 2022 to date, Downer stands as an indicted and accused person in ongoing private prosecution proceedings before court and in which I am the private prosecutor in respect of alleged criminal conduct on his part in activities directly related to my own prosecution by the state. Such a state of affairs is inherently inimical to Downer simultaneously remaining as the prosecutor in my latter prosecution”.

Zuma said this is so in spite of the fact that Downer has instituted parallel proceedings in the civil motion court to challenge the lawfulness of the private prosecution and in respect of which judgment is reserved as of the present.

“A copy of the conflict of interest on the part of Downer further arises from the state’s evidence of its own criminal complicity in my criminal prosecution dating as far back as the beginning of my prosecution when Downer was assigned to prosecute me. Based on what is set out in the affidavit of Advocate Hofmeyr, formerly of the NPA, I have always harboured a reasonable apprehension that Downer lacks the impartiality and independence to conduct a fair prosecution against me. In fact, his own colleagues deprecated the conduct of named NPA officials who are implicated in the criminal conduct set out in the affidavit of Hofmeyr, which Downer has defended rigorously. In essence, in fighting against me, Downer has sought the very help of persons who are implicated in criminal wrongdoing in relation to my prosecution,” Zuma said.

Legal expert Mpumelelo Zikalala in an interview with a broadcaster said he thinks that the first witness may only be seen in the witness box in 2024 following delays.

“I’ve said it years ago that this may take a bit of a long time. After the application made yesterday, then 2024 is the year we are going to see the first witness also subject to the availability of the legal rep, subject to the availability of court and witnesses,” said Zikalala.

The Star

Related Topics:

Jacob ZumaHigh Court