Inside the Pietermaritzburg High Court, while Advocate Dali Mpofu and Advocate Thabani Masuku SC took turns in reading Zuma’s affidavit on why Downer should not lead his prosecution, Downer was seen shaking his head in disapproval of the allegations made against him, and tried to jump in, but was shot down by Judge Piet Koen.
Among the allegations was that Downer is politically compromised as he supported a court action by the DA; he illegally leaked information to journalist Sam Sole; and that he interacted with Leonard McCarthy of the then Scorpions, while he knew the latter was in contact with spies from the CIA.
Zuma wants Downer removed from the corruption case, saying he doesn’t have a “lawful title” to prosecute him.
The former president also accused Downer of lacking the independence and impartiality to conduct the case lawfully.
Zuma and French arms company Thales appeared before the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday.
They pleaded not guilty to charges, which include corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering.
Zuma and Thales are expected back in court on 19 July.
During proceedings, Zuma’s advocate, Dali Mpofu, read a statement in which Zuma argued that Downer turned his prosecution into a “personal legacy project of his rather than a pursuit of justice based on an independent and impartial mind”.
Zuma also believes that Downer has “lost his independence and partiality”, adding that the prosecutor will not present evidence of alleged political interference in a “balanced manner”.
“There are facts and circumstances that give me a reasonable impression that Mr Downer has conducted himself, in this case, in a manner that lacks the independence and impartiality that is necessary for a lawful prosecution,” he said.
Zuma said Downer had failed to uphold the standard and prosecutorial independence needed to ensure that the trial was fair.
He added that Downer had “placed himself as a witness against me when he filed an affidavit in support of the Democratic Alliance’s application to review and set aside a decision by the NPA to terminate my prosecution”.
“His opposition for the NPA’s basis for defending the termination of prosecution decision places him in a position of a prosecutor who is neither independent nor impartial in relation to my rights to a fair trial or the obligation of the State to ensure that I enjoy a fair trial.”
Zuma also spoke about media leaks, saying he was aware of Downer’s “intimate engagement” with journalists from transcripts of telephone records.
He said Downer had meetings with investigative journalists, who had written “very prejudicial” articles about him.
Zuma’s other advocate, Thabani Masuku SC, continued to read Zuma’s plea statement, saying:
Mr Downer’s lack of independence and impartiality to conduct a fair trial is terminal and therefore incurable. He should be removed. His passionate pursuit of this prosecution in the circumstances set out is demonstrative of prosecutorial bias, in which the only objective is to win. In these circumstances, I pray for an order removing Mr Downer SC of the NPA as the prosecutor in my case for lack of independence and impartiality.
Zuma’s co-accused, Thales, made several denials before the court, including that the company had entered into a corrupt agreement to bribe Zuma.
The company denied it was guilty of racketeering and also denied it was aware of alleged benefits paid by fraudster Shabir Shaik to Zuma.
“It is denied that the second accused was aware of the alleged enterprise and its activities and participated in the alleged enterprise. It is denied that the second accused was even aware of the alleged benefits and payments by Shaik to or on behalf of the first accused (Zuma),” said advocate Samantha Jackson for Thales.
Meanwhile, Downer said his team was preparing papers to dispute what had been put on record – factually, and in terms of conclusions to be reached.
“We will present to the court, and that will be ventilated on 19 July,” he said, adding that, as he was the “target of the attack”, his counsel will be in court to take the matter forward.
The former president faces 16 charges relating to 783 payments he allegedly received in connection with the controversial Arms Deal.
Former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Mokotedi Mpshe dropped the charges in 2009, based on the recordings of the so-called “spy tapes” presented to him by Zuma’s legal team, News24 previously reported.
The tapes were made up of recordings of telephone conversations between then Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and former NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka, which Zuma’s legal team claimed showed political interference in charging him.
The charges were subsequently withdrawn, just before Zuma was sworn in for his first term as president.
However, in March 2018, former NPA boss Shaun Abrahams reinstated the charges.
Source – online