Home Politics High Court Dismisses Zuma’s Bid to Axe Prosecutor Billy Downer

High Court Dismisses Zuma’s Bid to Axe Prosecutor Billy Downer

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It is a mistake to think State Capture was only ever about Zuma - Sipho Seepe

President Jacob Zuma

The Pietermaritzburg High Court ruled against former President Jacob Zuma’s latest legal manoeuvre in his ongoing arms deal corruption case on Wednesday. The court dismissed Zuma’s application to remove Advocate Billy Downer as the lead prosecutor, striking a blow to Zuma’s defense strategy.

Judge Nkosinathi Chili presided over the ruling, stating categorically that Mr. Zuma’s legal team had not convincingly demonstrated how Downer’s continuation in the case would infringe upon the former president’s rights to a fair trial.

The verdict culminates a series of legal contests stretching back to October of the previous year. During that period, Zuma’s attorneys contended that Downer was unfit to prosecute the case, due to allegations that he had unlawfully leaked a confidential medical letter concerning Mr. Zuma’s health to the press. This accusation was pivotal to their argument that Downer had a conflict of interest and was thus compromised.

Despite these claims, the crux of Judge Chili’s judgement lay in the lack of evidence to suggest any actual prejudice to the fairness of the trial process. “The former President failed to show that Downer’s continued presence as his prosecutor would violate his fair trial rights,” Judge Chili pronounced, leaving little room for ambiguity around the court’s position.

This legal skirmish forms part of a broader saga of the corruption case that has seen Mr. Zuma entangled in a web of litigation for years, stemming from the multi-billion Rand arms deal concluded in the late 1990s during his vice-presidency and later on, his presidency.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma sits in court during his corruption trial in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, October 26, 2021. Jerome Delay/Pool via REUTERS
Former South African President Jacob Zuma waits in court during his corruption trial in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, October 26, 2021. Jerome Delay/Pool via REUTERS

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