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Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: SANDILE NDLOVU
Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: SANDILE NDLOVU

Former president Jacob Zuma will have to face prosecutor Billy Downer when he stands trial in the Pietermaritzburg high court in August.

Zuma’s reconsideration application to remove Downer as the lead prosecutor in his corruption trial was dismissed on May 20.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said the NPA welcomed the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) decision to dismiss Zuma’s application.

“We will now focus on ensuring the trial resumes on August 15,” he said.

Zuma turned to the SCA after the Pietermaritzburg high court dismissed a special plea raised in which he contended Downer “has no title to prosecute” and “should be removed as the prosecutor in this case”. 

He believed if his application to remove Downer was successful, he should be acquitted.

The court heard Zuma believed his right to a fair trial would be jeopardised as Downer was not impartial.

Downer was a witness against Zuma when the DA called for a review after the NPA did not want to pursue charges against the former president.

This was an example that Downer was driven by a political motive and was not impartial, said Zuma’s counsel, advocate Dali Mpofu. 

The NPA had responded that Zuma’s arguments in his special plea were the “same old, same old” complaints used in previous unsuccessful court bids.

The state told the court that Zuma’s plea was his latest move to put an end to the prosecution.

In the past, Zuma’s defence team was accused of adopting a “Stalingrad approach” by launching court applications to delay the start of the corruption trial while the state has always said it was ready to proceed.

In 2007, Zuma’s then-advocate, Kemp J Kemp, told the Durban high court: “We have adopted a Stalingrad strategy in response to this prosecution. We will fight [the state] in every street, in every house, and in every room.” 

Since then, under instruction from Zuma’s long-time attorney Michael Hulley, his defence team has tried every possible legal avenue to prevent him being prosecuted. 

Zuma is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500,000 from French arms dealer Thales for protection from an investigation into the controversial arms deal. 

The alleged bribe was facilitated by Schabir Shaik, who was Zuma’s former financial adviser.



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