South Africa’s Jacob Zuma files appeal to remove prosecutor from case

By PETER DUBE

Former South Africa President Jacob Zuma has taken his fight to the Supreme Court of Appeal, tabling four petitions to avoid prosecution weeks before he is due to be tried for corruption.

Mr Zuma raised a special plea, challenging the title of state advocate Billy Downer and the National Prosecuting Authority to try him in the arms deal case, arguing that he was the victim of prosecutorial bias and could not be guaranteed a fair trial.

Last month, his legal team rejected the ruling of Judge Piet Koen in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg that dismissed his application that appealed against a ruling in favour of retaining Advocate Downer SC in the case. Zuma wanted Downer to recuse himself from the case.

Among several reasons, Judge Koen said he saw no prospects of success even if the Supreme Court heard the matter of Appeal, and the high stakes corruption trial must go ahead on April 11, 2022.

“In the absence of a prompt resolution of that real issue between the parties, there is no scope for an appeal prior to conviction, based on S 17(1)(c) of the Superior Courts Act,” read part of the 61-page ruling.

In his fresh appeal, the former South African leader rejects this finding as a “gross misdirection of law”, wrongly premised on the idea that “the advantages of a speedy, albeit unlawful, trial outweigh the disadvantages of me having to endure a lengthy trial when it can be avoided by the application of the law and the Constitution”.

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He further appeals for the right to challenge both Judge Koen’s dismissal of his “special plea” application – in which he sought the removal of Advocate Downer – as well as his case that witnesses should be called to testify about the abuses he claims to have suffered at the hands of the State.

However, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has insisted that the trial of Mr Zuma and French arms company Thales must proceed regardless of any appeals.

“No appeal should impede the resumption of the trial, given that the appeal itself should have been lodged after the conclusion of the trial. Hence, the prosecutors will be opposing any postponement of the trial when it resumes on 11 April,” NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said recently. “We are on solid legal ground here.”

The NPA is expected to respond to Mr Zuma’s petitions in the coming weeks.

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