Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist


Zuma slapped with costs as court rules in favour of Downer, Maughan

The former president will now have to pay more punitive legal costs.


The Pietermaritzburg High Court has ruled in favour of state prosecutor Billy Downer and journalist Karyn Maughan enforcing its judgment on former president Jacob Zuma’s private prosecution.

On Thursday, the high court declined to suspend its 7 June ruling, which declared Zuma’s private prosecution unlawful and set aside the matter, pending the final determination of the former president’s application for leave to appeal.

In addition to granting Downer and Maughan an enforcement order, the court, in its latest judgment, also ordered Zuma to pay the costs including the cost of two counsel.

Enforcement order

The applicants had lodged an enforcement appeal, asking the high court for an order to block Zuma from further pursuing private prosecution against them while he appealed the matter.

They were due to appear in court on Friday, 4 August, for Zuma’s private prosecution case, which is likely to be postponed.

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 in August 2021.

ALSO READ: Zuma back in SA after Russia trip

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

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.

On 7 June, Justices Gregory Kruger, Jacqui Henriques and Thokozile Masipa ruled that the former president’s litigation was invalid and was an abuse of court process.

Zuma’s legal team, however, later filed an application for leave to appeal, arguing that the high court’s judgment suspended once an appeal was pending.

Ramphosa prosecution

The former president’s private prosecution against President Cyril Ramaphosa was also set aside by the Johannesburg High Court on 5 July.

The high court ruled at the time that the nolle prosequi certificate, one of which was originally issued in respect of Downer, did not apply to Ramaphosa.

Zuma launched his legal action in December 2022, on the eve of the ANC’s national elective conference, accusing Ramaphosa of being “an accessory after the fact” regarding the “leak” of his medical information.

He based his attempt to prosecute Ramaphosa on an accusation that the president failed to act after he complained that Downer had behaved improperly.

The former president is expected to appeal the ruling.

NOW READ: Ramaphosa’s defence tactics: A lesson from Zuma’s playbook

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits