Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

High court grants Ramaphosa urgent interdict against Zuma’s private prosecution

Ramaphosa will no longer appear in the dock on Thursday, in private criminal proceedings.

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has granted President Cyril Ramaphosa an urgent interim interdict against private prosecution by former president Jacob Zuma.

Zuma vs Ramaphosa

The full bench of the high court on Monday delivered its judgment on the matter after it heard marathon arguments last week, from Ramaphosa and Zuma’s legal teams in the president’s bid to block the summons for him to appear in court on Thursday in private prosecution proceedings instituted by his predecessor.

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The high court heard part A of Ramaphosa’s application, which is the urgent interim interdict to block his appearance in court on Thursday, 19 January 2023.    

Part B of his application is expected to be heard at a later stage.


In delivering judgment, Deputy Judge-President Roland Sutherland said Ramaphosa’s application was found to be urgent by the high court.

“Pending the final determination of part B [of the application] the first respondent [Zuma] is interdicted from taking any further steps to give effect to the nolle prosequi certificate of 21 November 2022 and 6 June 2022, and the summons issued by the registrar on 15 and 21 December 2022 or to pursue the private prosecution under case number 59772 of 2022 against the applicant in any way,” Judge Sutherland ruled.

Judge Sutherland also ruled that Ramaphosa had successfully made a prima facie case of his right to personal freedom being violated.

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Zuma, in opposing Ramaphosa’s application for an urgent interdict, had argued that the president’s application should be struck from the court roll with costs.

Judge Sutherland said the costs issue should be determined at a later stage of the case in part B.

“The costs occasioned by this urgent application shall be reserved for a decision at the hearing of part B of this case.

“The parties represented for this are directed to immediately approach the office of the deputy judge president of Johannesburg to arrange a case management meeting to set an agreed date for the hearing of part B.”

Ramaphosa approached the high court on an urgent basis after Zuma, on 15 December 2022, charged him with being an “accessory after the fact” in relation to charges Zuma is pursuing against senior state prosecutor Billy Downer and journalist Karyn Maughan for allegedly leaking his confidential medical information on 9 August 2021.

Zuma has accused Ramaphosa of committing a criminal offence by not acting against Downer and Maughan when he lodged a complaint with his office on 19 August 2021.

Ramaphosa, on the other hand, has argued that he did not commit any crime because he wrote to Zuma’s legal team on 25 August 2021, informing them that the matter had been referred to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, and that he had asked him to refer the complaint to the Legal Practice Council.


Advocate Ngwako Maenetje SC, acting on behalf of Ramaphosa, argued that Zuma’s private prosecution against the president was unlawful and that the nolle prosequi certificate – issued to the former president by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) – was invalid and did not apply to Ramaphosa in the Downer/Maughan prosecution.

Advocate Maenetje also contended that Zuma was infringing on the president’s constitutional rights and freedom by hauling him to court in “unlawful” private criminal proceedings.

He further argued that Ramaphosa turned to the high court on an urgent basis “to prevent an injustice from occurring” against him and his integrity.

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Zuma’s legal team accused Ramaphosa of abusing court processes and state resources to avoid his day in court.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, acting on behalf of Zuma, argued that the former president did not charge Ramaphosa in his capacity as the president of South Africa, but rather in his personal capacity.

Advocate Dali Mpofu also argued that a civil court wasn’t empowered to quash a criminal charge while the matter is before a criminal court.

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