Citizen Reporter
Reporter
3 minute read
19 Jul 2021
1:49 pm

Zuma has no proof to back conspiracy theories against NPA’s Downer, court told

Citizen Reporter

The court proceedings were expected to deal with former president Jacob Zuma’s special plea for the recusal of the lead prosecutor, Billy Downer.

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Getty Images

The High Court in Pietermaritzburg has resumed proceedings in corruption trial involving former president Jacob Zuma and the Thales Group.

The corruption trial was back in the court virtually on Monday.

Following a 30-minute adjournment, the court is currently hearing Advocate Thabani Masuku’s reply to Advocate Wim Trengove’s argument.

Masuku is part of Zuma’s legal team in the proceedings alongside Advocate Dali Mpofu.

The high court was expected to hear Zuma’s special plea for the recusal of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) prosecutor, Billy Downer.

Postponement

During the proceedings, Advicate Dali Mpofu, SC argued the former president’s postponement application before Judge Piet Koen instead of dealing with the merits of the special plea.

Mpofu told the court that they strongly objected to the trial and special plea application being heard on a virtual platform, therefore, they seek a postponement of “not more than two to three weeks”.

ALSO READ: Zuma has right to public trial, postponement ask ‘not a delay tactic’, says Mpofu

Citing Section 35 (3) of the Constitution, the advocate said Zuma did not want his fair-trial rights violated through a virtual hearing, adding that the former president wanted to lead oral testimony as part of his special plea application.

He further argued that Zuma had the right to a public trial and had the right to be present when being tried. 

‘Zuma desperately seeks to avoid answering his charges’

Meanwhile, Trengove – who is representing the NPA and Downer in the proceedings – argued Mpofu’s assertions that Zuma sought to give oral evidence in his special plea, saying that there was no need to the former president to do so.

Trengove previously pointed out the issues being raised by Zuma had already been dealt with by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and the high court. 

He said the state has a duty to prosecute corruption and importantly corruption committed by public officials, adding that Zuma had invoked his right to a fair trial.

ALSO READ: Zuma’s lawyers want arms deal trial to be postponed – report

“The accused has for more than 10 years taken every point in the book to avoid his day in court. He desperately seeks to avoid answering the charges of corruption, fraud and money-laundering made against him.

“He raises objections again and again. The objections raised today are objections that were raised and decided against him by the SCA in the spy tapes case and by the full bench in the stay of prosecution,” Trengove said.

Trengrove said Zuma was fully able to participate in the trial despite his special plea being heard on a virtual platform.

Conspiracy theories

The advocate then indicated that the notion that Zuma wishes to give oral evidence was not a true reflection of the case the former president has made.

“He doesn’t ask for an opportunity to adduce his own evidence orally and on the contrary, what he demands when he speaks of oral evidence is the opportunity to cross-examine Mr Downer and a variety of other state officials,” Trengove said.

Trengrove said Zuma’s demand for Downer to recuse himself was riddled with conspiracy theories, adding that the former president had no evidence to back up the allegations he has made against the prosecutor.

“That’s all there is: conspiracy theory upon conspiracy theory against Mr Downer,” he said.

During his last court appearance in May, Zuma pleaded not guilty and his legal team filed a special plea application to have Downer recused from prosecuting the case.

His legal team said Downer smeared their client’s name and leaked information related to the corruption case to the media.

Zuma wants to be acquitted of all charges should his application for Downer to recuse himself succeed.

The NPA has since denied the allegations made against Downer.

Additional reporting by Thapelo Lekabe and Bernadette Wicks