South Africa: Jacob Zuma files plea to oust Billy Downer

South Africa's former president Jacob Zuma has filed his "special plea" challenging prosecutor Billy Downer's right to try him.

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South Africa Jacob Zuma files plea to oust Billy Downer

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has confirmed that former president Jacob Zuma has filed his “special plea” challenging prosecutor Billy Downer’s right to try him – which it says appear to be a “regurgitation” of “false” claims he’s made before.

“We are studying the document and we will submit our response in court. At face value, it looks like a regurgitation of the old false issues that have been rejected by the courts,” NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema told News24 on Thursday.

“However, the matter is now sub juice; we will deal with it in court.”

While Zuma’s counsel Thabani Masuku last week told Downer that Zuma intended to apply for his recusal, he now wants to lodge a “special plea”, under section 106 of the Criminal Procedure Act, that Downer “has no title to prosecute” the former head of state.

It appears that many of the issues raised by Zuma in his special plea had previously been dealt with by the courts, including his claims of undue delay and political interference in his prosecution.

In 2019, a full bench of the Pietermaritzburg High Court found there was no legal basis for Zuma’s trial not to go ahead and rejected his application for a permanent stay of prosecution – in a ruling Zuma tried and failed to appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

“The seriousness of the offences that Mr. Zuma is facing outweighs any prejudice, which he claims he will suffer if the trial proceeds,” the High Court said.

Zuma and his co-accused, French arms company Thales, will next week plead to the racketeering and corruption case against them.

Zuma stands accused of receiving R4.072 million in bribes and benefits from his former financial advisor Schabir Shaik, in exchange for using his political clout to further Shaik’s business interests.

The State further alleges that Shaik facilitated an R500 000-a-year bribe for Zuma from Thales, in exchange for his “protection” from any potential investigation into South Africa’s multibillion-rand Arms Deal.

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