Its a Zuma vs Downer showdown

In today’s hearing which is expected to start around 9am, Zuma’s legal team led by Adv Thabani Masuku SC (senior counsel) will formally table and argue its latest application for Adv Billy Downer SC, to recuse himself.

Downer is the NPA’s (National Prosecuting Authority) lead prosecutor in the corruption trial of Zuma and he is also the prosecutor who successfully urged before the Durban high court in 2005 that Durban businessman, Schabir Shaik, should be jailed for corruption he allegedly committed with Zuma.

Shaik’s Nkobi Holdings was a BEE partner of the French arms manufacturer, Thales, one of the companies that scored lucrative tenders during the 1998-99 arms acquisition by South Africa.

The NPA alleges that Thales was assisted when Zuma used his political clout as national chairperson of the ANC to help the consortium to win tenders. In return, he pocketed millions in cash bribes, gifts and other undeclared favours from Shaik and his companies- hence the need for his pending prosecution.

After 16 years of delays due to litigation, withdrawals and other challenges, the case was supposed to be heard in court last week Monday and for the court to set dates for actual hearings. However, Zuma threw another spanner in the works of the NPA.

He told the court that Downer cannot prosecute him and the presiding judge, Piet Koen adjourned the matter to today to allow for a formal hearing.

While the official reasons why Zuma wants Downer out will be known later, it is already known that he alleges that the top prosecutor engaged in illegal acts during the process leading to his trial. As such, he will argue through his lawyers in court that he must recuse himself and if he wins, he should be allowed to walk free since the high profile trial is now contaminated.

“In the event that my plea to have Mr Downer removed in terms of the criminal procedure Act, 51 of 1997, is successful, I am entitled to be acquitted in terms of section 106 (4) of the CPA on the basis that no fair trial may be conducted under the circumstances set out in the plea explanation,” reads part of the leaked affidavit Zuma placed before court.

While both the legal team of Zuma and the NPA were mum ahead of today’s hearing, the NPA has previously said it appears the former president was relying on allegations that have been previously dismissed in court.

Outside the court, Zuma is expected to have the backing of his supporters from all over the country. Last night some gathered for a night vigil as temperatures dropped in Pietermaritzburg. One of the organisers of the supporters, Nkosentsha Shezi of the RET Champion said while they were not going to bus in people, the turnout was good.

“People have come from all over the country to take part in the night vigil. As usual, they will camp outside the court and wait for President Zuma to come to address them after the hearing,” Shezi said.

Image (Former Pres JG Zuma to appear at the Pietermaritzburg High Court, today on a litany of fraud corruption allegations).

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