Former President Jacob Zuma’s Private Prosecution Saga: Everything You Need to Know About His Legal Attack

Former President Jacob Zuma’s Private Prosecution Saga: Everything You Need to Know About His Legal Attack

Former president Jacob Zuma’s private prosecution of State Advocate Billy Downer and News24 legal journalist Karyn Maughan has been filled with numerous twists and turns. The beef between Msholozi and Downer began when the arms deal corruption saga began in the early 2000s.

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Zuma and the French arms company, Thales, are accused of money laundering, corruption, and fraud. In addition, the former president is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500 000 from Thales to upgrade the country's military. He also allegedly received gifts from his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik while he was MEC for economic development. Downer is the lead prosecutor in the trial.

Briefly News looks into the private prosecution launched by the nation’s former leader - from start to postponement.

Legal Journalist Karyn Maughan, former President Jacob Zuma and State Advocate Billy Downer
Legal Journalist Karyn Maughan, former President Jacob Zuma and State Advocate Billy Downer appeared at the High Court sitting in Pietermaritzburg. Image: Rajesh Jantilal & Nic Bothma
Source: Getty Images

The alleged leak of medical records

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Last year, while the trial was underway, the High Court sitting in Pietermaritzburg heard a special plea regarding a leaked medical note from Zuma’s doctor.

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Advocate Dali Mpofu, the former president’s lawyer, told the court that Downer should be held accountable for leaking the doctor’s note to Maughan.

The note allegedly contained “confidential” details and was filed last August when Zuma’s legal team applied for a postponement of the trial because he was unwell.

During the trial, Zuma attempted to have the state prosecutor removed from the arms deal case. Mpofu claimed that some of Zuma’s family members were not aware of his medical condition as it was kept private.

Zuma’s first strike against Downer

Last October, the former president landed the first blow and laid criminal charges against Downer at the Pietermaritzburg Police Station. At the time, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga told TimesLIVE that the NPA noted with concern the charges laid against Downer.

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Msholozi’s private prosecution allowed

In June 2022, the NPA stated it would not prosecute Downer.

However, the director of public prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal, Elaine Zungu, issued Zuma with a nolle prosequi certificate. The certificate allowed the former president to pursue a private prosecution.

The NPA believed there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the advocate, saying that the charges against Downer were “baseless”.

Maughan and Downer served summons

On Tuesday, 6 September, Maughan and Downer were served with court summons ordering them to appear in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Monday, 10 October.

The journalist described Zuma’s prosecution as an abuse of the court process.

Maughan filed an urgent application asking the court to set aside Zuma’s prosecution. According to News24, she claimed the former president lacked standing to institute the private prosecution.

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Maughan stated Zuma had no substantial and peculiar interest in the trial since he was not affected by the offence he alleges was committed. She also accused Zuma of having ulterior motives behind the private prosecution.

The former president denied any wrongdoing and claimed he had no ulterior motives behind the case. In turn, Zuma accused Maughan of being part of “the NPA’s media campaign” aimed at labelling him as a criminal.

In court papers opposing the journalist’s application, Msholozi said he had no ill wishes against Maughan.

Karyn Maughan and Billy Downer deny wrongdoings

The medical report was attached to court documents, and the journalist admitted to asking for the state’s papers before the hearing.

However, Maughan claimed she reported their contents after they became public documents. Maughan also claimed there were no details about Zuma’s medical condition.

Downer also shared similar views as Maughan and filed an application for an order compelling Zuma to pay a R1 million security deposit for his legal fee costs.

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Zuma lodged a R90 000 deposit, which Downer described as “wholly inadequate”.

The advocate argued he did nothing wrong and the private prosecution was another ploy by Zuma to avoid trial and an attempt to have him removed as lead prosecutor.

The private prosecution begins and adjourns

The private prosecution got underway at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday, 10 October.

The matter kicked off with Maughan’s application to have the private prosecution thrown out before Judge Rishi Seegobin.

According to News24, Maughan’s urgent application was postponed due to a conflict of interest by Judge Seegobin. However, he did not elaborate on what the conflict of interest was.

During the court proceedings, Advocate Dali Mpofu told the court the matter of the security deposit was handled.

However, Mpofu said the former president would have to pay R500 000 to continue with the trial after Downer’s legal team agreed to meet in the middle.

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Judge Nkosinathi Chili heard the private prosecution case. Following a discussion in the judge’s chambers, all parties agreed that both applications to have the private prosecution declared unlawful will be heard on Thursday, 8 and Friday, 9 December.

Judge Chili said the private prosecution matter would resume on Thursday, 2 February 2023, pending the finalisation of the applications made by Maughan and Downer.

Where to from here in Jacob Zuma’s private prosecution?

The former president was convinced he will win the case against Maughan and Downer.

In the summons, Zuma said he has “reasonable prospects of success” in the case against the accused.

Jacob Zuma gets his groove back and sings 'uMshini Wam' for loyal supporters

In a related matter, Briefly News also reported former president Jacob Zuma addressed his supporters on Monday, 10 October, after his private prosecution matter against Advocate Billy Downer and News24 journalist Karyn Maughan was adjourned.

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Armed with a microphone in his hand, large surround speakers and a stage, Msholozi thanked his loyal fans for their unwavering support as he faced his contempt of case sentence.

Zuma became a free man on Friday, 7 October, when he was released from the correctional services system, according to EWN.

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Source: Briefly News

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