Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
21 May 2021
1:29 pm

Zuma wants acquittal on arms deal charges if Downer is recused

Thapelo Lekabe

Zuma has argued prosecutor lacks the independence and impartiality to oversee the trial.

Former president Jacob Zuma, who is facing fraud and corruption charges, greets supporters in the gallery of the high court in Pietermaritzburg on 17 May 2021. Picture: Reuters/Rogan Ward

Former president Jacob Zuma has reportedly asked the high court in Pietermaritzburg to acquit him of all charges in his arms deal corruption case.

This is in the event that the court rules in favour of his application to remove prosecutor Billy Downer from the case, eNCA reported on Friday citing sources close to the trial.

Zuma’s legal team on Wednesday filed his affidavit requesting the court to recuse Downer from prosecuting the case.

According to the news channel, Zuma is understood to be arguing that Downer lacks the independence and impartiality to oversee the trial.

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Zuma apparently cited an affidavit the prosecutor deposed in the DA’s case back in 2014 to force the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to release all documents related to former acting NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe’s decision to drop corruption charges against Zuma in April 2009.

Zuma’s lawyers argue Downer’s affidavit supported the DA’s arguments in that case and was contrary to the NPA’s decision not to proceed with Zuma’s prosecution.

At the time, the DA wanted access to a memo in which Downer allegedly stated that Mpshe informed the prosecution team that he had decided to delay announcing the decision to prosecute Zuma until after the ANC’s 2007 national elective conference.

The Polokwane conference elected Zuma as ANC president. During that period, Downer was leading the team appointed to prosecute Zuma.

‘Regurgitating old falsehoods’

NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema on Thursday said they were studying Zuma’s legal papers and would submit their response in court when the trial resumes on 26 May 2021.

Ngwema said the former president seemed to be regurgitating old falsehoods in an attempt to delay the trial.

“At face value, it looks like a regurgitation of the old false issues that have been previously rejected by the courts. However, the matter is now sub judice, we will deal with it extensively in court as required,” he said in a statement.

Zuma and French arms manufacturer Thales – which allegedly bribed Zuma – are on trial over the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal. He is facing 16 counts including fraud‚ corruption, money laundering and racketeering, while Thales faces four counts.

The NPA has lined up 217 witnesses to testify in the case.

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