Zuma’s second bid to remove Downer from arms deal trial fails

The high court in Pietermaritzburg has dismissed former president Jacob Zuma’s bid to have advocate Billy Downer removed from the arms deal corruption trial.

The court found Zuma failed to show that Downer’s continued presence as a prosecutor in the matter would infringe upon his right to a fair trial.

“I am not persuaded that Mr Zuma succeeded in establishing that the intention of Mr Downer as the prosecutor in this matter could prejudice his right to a fair trial,” ruled Judge Nkosinathi Chili on Wednesday.

“The application for the removal of Mr Downer as the prosecutor in the criminal prosecution of Mr Zuma is dismissed.”

Second attempt bites the dust

This was Zuma’s second attempt to remove Downer. Former trial judge Piet Koen rejected his first attempt in a special plea.

Koen recused himself in January 2023, stating that he holds strong views contradicting Zuma’s arguments on the unlawful disclosure of his medical condition, which form the basis of his criminal charge and private prosecution.

Since then, Zuma has filed criminal charges against Downer and initiated a private prosecution against him and Karyn Maughan, a News24 journalist.

Despite the contending records being submitted to court by both the state and Zuma’s lawyer, the former statesman claims the document was confidential.

Multiple courts and judges, including the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), have deemed the private prosecution baseless and a delay tactic.

Zuma lodged a complaint of prosecutorial misconduct in October 2021.

He said at the time that the officials from the National Prosecuting Authority had violated his rights since the start of the case in 2005 and requested to be acquitted should the court find he was treated unfairly.

Abuse of court processes

He also contended that the state attorney was neither independent nor impartial.

In October, Zuma’s legal team argued that Downer should be excluded because the former president was privately seeking his prosecution.

However, the SCA found the private prosecution was an abuse of court processes.

In February, the Constitutional Court unanimously rejected Zuma’s appeal against the enforcement order, which halted any action regarding his private prosecution of the two individuals.

This order prevented Zuma from pursuing his private prosecution bid against them while his appeal process against the initial order invalidating his private prosecution was ongoing.

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