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Judges tell Dali Mpofu to watch his language in heated Ramaphosa vs Zuma courtroom exchange

Judges tell Dali Mpofu to watch his language in heated Ramaphosa vs Zuma courtroom exchange
Advocate Dali Mpofu (centre left) and former president Jacob Zuma (right) at the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Johannesburg on 17 May 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

Arguing in the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Johannesburg, Mpofu vociferously criticised the National Prosecuting Authority’s support of prosecutor Billy Downer, calling it ‘disgraceful’.

Advocate Dali Mpofu SC was warned to “tone down” and “moderate” his language after criticising the conduct of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in a case involving President Cyril Ramaphosa and former president Jacob Zuma. Mpofu, representing Zuma, has argued against an application which seeks to halt Zuma’s private prosecution of Ramaphosa.

Zuma alleges that Ramaphosa is an “accessory after the fact” in another private prosecution that he has brought against prosecutor Billy Downer, who Zuma alleges unlawfully leaked his confidential medical records to journalist Karyn Maughan. Downer has denied any illegal conduct and is also attempting to halt his private prosecution.

Advocate Dali Mpofu at the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Johannesburg on 17 May 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

The Criminal Procedure Act allows individuals to enter into private prosecutions once the NPA decides it will no longer continue with a prosecution. The individual must obtain a nolle prosequi certificate from the NPA in which it indicates it won’t be continuing with the prosecution. Zuma obtained two such certificates, one in June 2022 and one in November of that year. Ramaphosa argues that his name does not feature as a potential accused in either document and as a result has called the prosecution unlawful. The NPA, which said it didn’t want to be dragged into the dispute, agreed that Ramaphosa was never mentioned as a potential accused.

‘A hallelujah moment’

Arguing in the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Johannesburg, Mpofu vociferously criticised the NPA’s support of Downer, calling it “disgraceful”. He also alleged that NPA officials “lied” when they said Zuma’s complaint made no mention of Ramaphosa. The NPA’s representative, advocate Frank Mothibedi SC, objected to Mpofu’s statements, saying: “It’s unfair to say the DPP [KZN Director of Public Prosecutions Elaine Zungu] lied.”

Mpofu doubled down, saying the NPA had shown support for Downer when it should have remained neutral.

“At what point does a National Director of Prosecutions issue a statement defending a person that is an accused person? If Mr Downer pleads guilty in the private prosecution, the NPA must step in. Are they going to sponsor his legal representation and prosecute him? That is disgraceful,” Mpofu said.

Judges Lebogang Modiba and Selby Baqwa both warned Mpofu to tone down his language while making his points. Modiba said if the court agreed with Mpofu’s argument on the NPA’s conduct, it would make the appropriate ruling, prompting Mpofu to exclaim: “That is what I call a hallelujah moment!”

Jurisdiction challenge

The court also heard significant argument on the question of jurisdiction. Zuma’s initial private prosecution is before a criminal court, while Ramaphosa’s interdict application is before a civil court. 

Mpofu, on behalf of Zuma, argues that the case should remain in the criminal court. He referenced section 106 of the Criminal Procedure Act which specifies the different pleadings that accused people can make during a court appearance, including challenging the “title to prosecute”. Mpofu argued that Ramaphosa should have attended the criminal case, and used that remedy instead of instituting separate civil proceedings. 

“The nature of the challenge is title to prosecute. Because of the nature of the challenge, it falls under section 106 of the Criminal Procedure Act. Even when they talk about ulterior motive, it leads us to title to prosecute… They are saying that the prosecutor has no title to prosecute. But they can’t do that now. They must do it when they plead [in a criminal court].” 

If the court accepts Mpofu’s argument, it would mean Ramaphosa would have to appear as a criminal accused in the dock. Once asked to plead, he would then raise the issue of the validity of the prosecution process by raising Zuma’s title to prosecute. Mpofu argued that Ramaphosa had chosen a “long convoluted route” that “makes no sense at all.” 

Interest of justice

Ramaphosa’s team has attacked Zuma’s private prosecution on several grounds. Advocate Ngwako Maenetje SC told the court Ramaphosa had the right to exercise his rights in a civil court even though the prosecution is unfolding in a criminal court.

“As an individual occupying an office, when his rights are breached he has the right to approach the court,” he said. Maenetje also criticised the manner in which Zuma had brought about the private prosecution, calling it “prosecution for an ulterior purpose… You have a private prosecution that is in breach of the rule of law. That threatens his constitutional rights.”

He added that it was “in the interest of justice” that a civil court hears Ramaphosa’s argument.

“When we go to the facts, you will see that other than the creativity of counsel, the nolle prosequi does not relate to the President. This case is where the interest of justice cries out for the court to intervene.”

He also argued that Zuma had not followed the required process of making a security deposit to the magistrates’ court before proceeding with the private prosecution. An amount of R250,000 was eventually paid, four months after the prosecution was launched. He said if the court allowed this, it could lead to abuse of process.

“There are limited circumstances where a court can allow for noncompliance with a statutory provision. If you are allowed to pay two years down the line, the accused may incur all kinds of costs and then you abandon the matter,” he said.

Mpofu is expected to continue with arguments on behalf of Zuma on Thursday. The court will also hear from amicus curiae (friend of the court) Blackhouse Kollective Foundation. Ramaphosa and the NPA will each have a chance to rebut before the case is concluded. DM

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  • Richard Bryant says:

    And they are fellow comrades of the ANC. One a sitting President and the other an ex president.

    Are they that scared of Zuma? Or alternatively, are they that contemptuous of Ramaphosa that the rank and file don’t stand up for someone they recently voted in to lead them. Quite bizarre.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Mpofu is only good for qualification on the Jerry Springer Show

    • Lorinda Winter says:

      I don’t even think Jerry Springer would have accepted him and the ‘Hallelujah moment’ was when the judges had the guts, at long last, to reprimand him!

      • Kanu Sukha says:

        That the various judges he has appeared before, have not had the guts to have his rights to practice the ‘law’ (abuse it rather) and moved/recommended for his dismissal from the ‘profession’ (like they did too late in the Giuliani case in the States) … remains a mystery to me ! Gutless judges trying too hard to seem/appear impartial and setting a precedent for other legal charlatans to do the same. Imagine telling a defending counsel to ‘shut up’ in open court and not being severely reprimanded or suspended. Disgraceful !

        • Kerry van Schalkwyk says:

          Agreed – Dali Mpofu should have been had up for misconduct for insulting the court and opposing counsel a long time ago. This isn’t the first time that his gross contempt for the court and his colleagues is disgraceful and he shouldn’t be allowed to practice until he learns some manners. It wouldn’t be necessary to consistently take more time than agreed to if he had one degree of competency. I put his ongoing ramblings to either not having a clue what he is talking about, or hoping that the court won’t have a clue what he is trying to articulate & rule in his favour. In actual fact, he doesn’t even know how to spell “articulate”. It’s about time that the judges started putting him into his place & more than time that the JSC haul him over the coals for being an embarrassment to the legal fraternity.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    Zuma and Mpofu – both a curse on the nation.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Like a 5 year old – if I shout louder I’m right.

    The courts need to smack his bottom – ooh wait they can’t.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    In 1170 December 29 Henry II said: ‘Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ That is exactly the same situation, except it’s not a priest but a meddlesome and vexatious lawyer. Since people in the government aren’t interested, why aren’t the leaders of the legal profession doing something about it? The legal fraternity already have an awful reputation as ambulance chasers, and people like Mpofu make it worse.

  • Chris 123 says:

    What a 🤡🤡🎪

  • Louise Wilkins says:

    Mpofu is nothing but a joke. The legal profession really need to do something about him.

    • David Farrell says:

      Who is paying zuma’s legal fees, if tax payers are covering this bs again then how come he gets to appoint this very expensive noise maker, all government legal representations must be carried out by the government legal department and no private layers must be allowed to reap benefits. A principle similar to medical aid and medical rates, if you want a specific doctor/lawyer who is not contracted to the medical aid/government, then you pay the difference.

  • John Counihan says:

    What a bizarre situation. Prime evil Zuma who is guilty of high treason and should be in jail for the rest of his miserable life is able to strut around our court system peddling such frivolous nonsense with the help of his personal court jester, Mpofu.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      And CR who is the ‘defendant’ in this matter, is having a long established dalliance with an internationally declared (by the ICC) criminal like Putin ! What a sorry state we are in.

  • Zamfoot 1 1 says:

    We hold the courts up to be the last line of defence, are they ?
    What crime(in law) has been comitted ? The medical records were on public record.
    The required NPC (x2) are curtainly questionable and the complainant has not provided the required financial bond. Have the minimum requirements met for the court to entertain this embarrasing nonsense? If not WTF !

  • Robert Morgan says:

    I see chief troll and violence instigator Dudu Zuma-Sambudla sitting next to her corruption-ridden father. Hopefully getting a feel for spending interminable hour in the dock for her involvement in the July 2021 riots that lead to the death of 354 people. We too see you, Doo doo.

  • Claude Koenig says:

    One thing for sure – this unbelievable situation makes a mockery of our Justice system – Zuma is a convicted criminal and is out of prison for extremely suspicious health reasons – the damage to SA’s international status is immeasurable – suffice to say SA is yet another failed state in Africa

  • Rae Earl says:

    The 3 stooges of South Africa, Zuma, Ramaphosa, and Mpofu. One is an ex-president awaiting trial for corruption. A second is a standing president who hides Dollars at home in questionable circumstances of legality. The third is a lawyer who seldom seems to win any of his cases regardless of his inflated opinion of his ability to do so. And we poor citizens have to endure this trio while the country crumbles into darkness because an incompetent government is rudderless.

  • garrold.kh says:

    Mpofu loves to be annoying and then self victimises as he brick walls common-sense and gets annoyed. Bizarre person steeped in alternative truth.

  • Barry Messenger says:

    When will the Judiciary and the Legal Practices start controlling Mpofu effectively?!

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