Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

Zuma mum on Russia trip, potential jail return as private prosecution case postponed

'I'm not a spokesperson,' the former president said in response to a question about his potential return to prison.

Former president Jacob Zuma has avoided answering questions about his recent trip to Russia and potential return to jail as he seeks to appeal an order granted to state prosecutor Billy Downer and journalist Karyn Maughan in his private prosecution case.

The KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday ruled in favour of Downer and Maughan in their enforcement application by declining to suspend its 7 June ruling, which set aside Zuma’s private prosecution.

Zuma was slapped with costs, including the cost of two counsels.

Downer and Maughan had asked the high court for an enforcement order to block Zuma from further pursuing private prosecution against them, pending the final determination of the former president’s application for leave to appeal of the initial judgment.

‘Automatic appeal’

Zuma, however, has since lodged another appeal, effectively suspending the enforcement order.

“Yesterday, we then served 18(4) application which is, as your Lordship knows, an automatic appeal and we can’t obviously predict how long that will take, but if one looks at previous cases it will be heard in a month or two because it’s one of those extremely urgent applications.

“The effect of that is that the judgment of yesterday is suspended as well… to cut it short we are in the same position we were on the 6th of June. Back to square one,” said his lawyer, Advocate Dali Mpofu, during proceedings in the Kwazulu-Natal High Court on Friday.

Mpofu also told the court that the parties have agreed to a postponement of Zuma’s private prosecution, pending the appeals launched by the former president.

ALSO READ: ‘Zuma likely to appeal court ruling declaring private prosecution of Ramaphosa unlawful’ – Manyi

While Downer’s lawyer, Advocate Steven Budlender, confirmed the arrangement, he indicated that his client’s required presence in court could be challenged.

“Depending on what happens in the 18(4) appeal, there may be a debate to whether the appearance is necessary at all, but we don’t have to cross that bridge today. That’s a matter, thankfully, for another day,” said Budlender.

Judge Nkosinathi Chili provisionally adjourned the matter until 1 November.

“Mr Downer and Ms Maughan, you have been warned to appear in court of the 1st of November. If you don’t do that, warrants for arrest will be authorised forthwith,” said the judge.

Zuma instituted the private prosecution proceedings against the pair after he accused Downer – the lead prosecutor in his arms deal corruption trial – of leaking his confidential medical information to Maughan, a journalist, in August 2021.

The former president claimed the “leak” was in breach of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act.

Watch the proceedings below:

‘Why are talking about Russia?’

Zuma on Friday also refused to answers questions from the media regarding his recent trip to Russia.

“No, we are not talking about Russia, we are talking about the case today. Why are you talking about Russia? We are in Africa… I’m in Pietermaritzburg now. What’s your problem? Why do you ask about a country you have never been [to],” he said to reporters.

The former president returned to South Africa this week after having been in Russia seeking medical treatment.

READ MORE: Zuma’s Russia trip ‘plunges SA govt into deeper legal and political predicament’

His trip came after the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) dismissed the Department of Correctional Services’ application for leave to appeal a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling, which found Zuma’s release on medical parole unlawful.

Correctional Services national commissioner Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale has to decide whether the former president must return to Estcourt Correctional Centre to complete his 15-month jail sentence.

Asked on Friday whether he has made submissions to Correctional Services on his potential return to prison, Zuma instead referred the reporters to his foundation’s spokesperson, Mzwanele Manyi.

“I’m not a spokesperson,” the former president responded.

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