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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist


Court to rule on Zuma’s private prosecution of Downer and Maughan

Zuma is charging the duo with what he’s deemed the unlawful leaking of his confidential doctor’s letter.


The Pietermaritzburg High Court will hand down judgment on 17 April in Jacob Zuma’s bid to privately prosecute State advocate Billy Downer and journalist Karyn Maughan.

Zuma’s case returned to court on Tuesday, after an order preventing further prosecution against the duo pending any more appeals by the former president.

Outside court, scores of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party supporters gathered at a park near the High Court to support Zuma.

Zuma is charging the duo for the alleged unlawful leaking of his confidential doctor’s letter.

Stalingrad strategy

However, Downer and Maughan challenged the private prosecution on the basis that Zuma’s medical information was publicly available in court documents and did not include confidential details.

Three full benches confirmed that the Pietermaritzburg High Court’s finding in June 2023 that the private prosecution of Downer and Maughan for alleged breaches of the NPA Act by leaking his confidential medical information in August 2021 was an “abuse of the process of court”, had been pursued for an ulterior purpose, and was part Zuma’s ‘Stalingrad strategy’ to avoid trial for the arms deal corruption matter.

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During Tuesday’s proceedings, Maughan’s lawyer Charl du Plessis asked Judge Nkosinathi Chili to strike the case off the roll because of previous failed appeals on the private prosecution case.

Du Plessis argued that because the order was in effect after previous failed appeals on the private prosecution case, the private prosecution is a nullity, and the court should strike it from the roll, because Zuma has exhausted all his legal avenues to challenge his court outcomes.

However, Zuma’s legal counsel Advocate Nqabayethu Buthelezi argued the former president still has a leg to stand on, saying the only way the court can dispense with the matter is when there is finality in terms of the appeal processes.

“This is not possible in terms of the Criminal Procedures Act,” he argued.

Judge Chili said he needed to deliberate on the matter.

Serial appealer

Zuma has filed a series of appeals in a two-decade-long cycle of challenges crusade to privately prosecute Downer and Maughan.

The 81-year-old Zuma and French arms manufacturer Thales are facing multiple charges, including fraud‚ corruption, money laundering, and racketeering, in connection with the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal procurement concluded in the late 1990s while he was vice president.

It is the state’s case that Zuma was kept on a corrupt retainer by his former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, who then used his political clout to further his own business interests.

Shaik was convicted of corruption in 2005, which led to Zuma being charged, but he is yet to go on trial.

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