Arms deal: Zuma to take another shot at Billy Downer in court

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Former president Jacob Zuma at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KZN. PHOTO: AFP

Former president Jacob Zuma will today once again attempt to have State prosecutor Billy Downer removed from the multibillion-rand Thales arms deal case, which is due in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

Zuma faces 18 charges and 783 counts of fraud‚ corruption, money laundering, and racketeering – while Thales is facing four counts.

In May last year, Zuma signed his affidavit arguing for the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) advocate Downer’s recusal from the arms deal trial.

Zuma claimed prosecutors were conspiring against him, and the case postponed to give Zuma’s legal team an extension to file an affidavit outlining their reasons for demanding Downer’s withdrawal.

The application was presented before Judge Piet Koen in July 2021, with Zuma losing the special-plea bid to have Downer recused in October.

At the time, Judge Piet Koen dismissed the 14 grounds raised by Zuma’s legal team as they were based on speculation and ordered that the corruption trial proceed.

Judge Koen found that Zuma’s demand for acquittal in terms of section 106(1)(h) Criminal Procedure Act was incorrect.

“The ultimate question to be answered is therefore not whether the prosecutor is not independent or not impartial or biased or not sufficiently independent or impartial, but whether the accused will ultimately receive a fair trial”.

Zuma also laid a criminal complaint against Downer at the Pietermaritzburg Police Station in October last year, for allegedly leaking his confidential medical records to the media.

But the NPA has denied the claims against Downer, describing him as a highly respected prosecutor who had carried himself with integrity throughout his career.

The arms deal trial – which has dragged on for nearly two decades – was initially set to resume on 11 April 2022.

But the Judiciary earlier this month confirmed the case will continue at the KwaZulu-Natal division of the High Court on 31 January.

The Citizen/Nica Richards/Cheryl Kahla/Thapelo Lekabe