Home National Zuma maintains Downer must ‘step aside’ from prosecuting Zuma trial

Zuma maintains Downer must ‘step aside’ from prosecuting Zuma trial

by Thys Khiba
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Former South African President Jacob Zuma speaks with his legal counsel in court during his corruption trial in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, October 26, 2021. Jerome Delay/Pool via REUTERS

By Thys Khiba – The Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Piet Koen has postponed former president Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial to allow the Constitutional Court to rule on his latest legal bid to remove State Advocate Billy Downer as his prosecutor. 

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In the absence of Zuma, his corruption trial returned to court on Monday. He didn’t attend as the matter waits for a ruling from the ConCourt on the appeal launched by the former president. 

Judge Koen adjourned proceedings to Wednesday, 19 October, for the apex court’s decision on Zuma’s “special plea” appeal bid. 

The matter is expected to proceed on 7 November, if the ConCourt dismisses the appeal by Zuma. 

While in court, Downer indicated that Zuma’s attempt to convince Supreme Court of Appeal President Mandisa Maya to reconsider her court’s dismissal of his special plea appeal hasbeen unsuccessful.

This comes after the former’s president legal team demanded that the ConCourt order Maya to reconsider her decision. Zuma continued to argue that Downer lacks the impartiality and independence to prosecute him. 

Downer told the court that he is acting on instructions of the NDPP Shamila Batohi, which indicates that he shouldn’t recuse himself. In his argument, he said Zuma was required to seek condonation from the ConCourt to file his latest appeal, because it is out of time. 

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Adv Downer State Prosecutor

While in court, the sitting Judge asked Zuma’s legal representative, Advocate Sifiso Buthelezi if he wants an opportunity to make any representations on whether Downer must step down. Responding to Koen, Buthelezi said no. He told the court that “as a matter of ethics,” Downer should step down “for integrity of this process” and integrity of the NPA.

He suggested that the matter reconvene in the second term of 2023. While representing the former’s president, Buthelezi indicated that there is currently no intention to postpone the trial and said Monday was about Zuma’s lawyers updating the court “about whether we are in the appeal process.” 

Koen confirmed he will make a decision on this without any such representations.

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