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‘Abuse of process’ – high court delivers fresh blow to Zuma, swats aside bid to prosecute Ramaphosa

‘Abuse of process’ – high court delivers fresh blow to Zuma, swats aside bid to prosecute Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook) | Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

This is the latest in a series of unfavourable court judgments against former president Jacob Zuma.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has succeeded in stopping his predecessor from privately prosecuting him for allegedly being an “accessory” to a crime. 

A full bench of the high court found that former president Jacob Zuma’s attempt to privately prosecute Ramaphosa is unlawful and unconstitutional. 

Zuma’s prosecution has been interdicted and he is ordered to pay Ramaphosa’s legal costs. 

This is the latest blow for Zuma, who was interdicted last month from privately prosecuting prosecutor advocate Billy Downer and journalist Karyn Maughan. Zuma accused Downer of leaking his medical records and later accused Ramaphosa of being an accessory for not investigating Downer. Ramaphosa had requested Justice Minister Ronald Lamola to look into Zuma’s complaint. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Zuma’s Stalingrad defence disintegrates after judges quash latest legal gambit in scathing judgment

Zuma had tried to prosecute Ramaphosa in December 2022, shortly before the ANC’s elective conference. He accused the President of being an accessory to Downer’s crime, which he was trying to prosecute separately. Ramaphosa accused Zuma of abusing the legal process and using the court to fight political battles. Zuma relied on two nolle prosequi certificates in his case against Ramaphosa, obtained on 6 June and 21 November 2022. During the case, Ramaphosa’s legal team argued that the certificates did not mention the President and did not apply to him. The court agreed. 

“Mr Zuma specifically requested an investigation against Mr Downer SC in respect of the offences mentioned in this judgment. He then made reference to a wide investigation beyond the complaint against Mr Downer SC and his accomplices… The wider investigation Mr Zuma envisaged is against persons who interfered in his investigation including foreign spies. Nothing in the wording used in the complaint affidavit suggests that Mr Ramaphosa falls within that ambit,” the court said. 

The court added that the certificate issued on 6 June was no longer valid by 15 December, when Zuma tried to prosecute Ramaphosa. The Criminal Procedure Act dictates that proceedings need to have begun within three months of the certificate being issued. 

The court also found that Zuma had an “ulterior motive” for instituting the private prosecution. 

“The charges would not lead to a conviction as they are grounded on conduct that does not constitute a criminal offence. Therefore, a private prosecution constitutes an abuse of process. Hence it stands to be declared unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid and set aside. 

The judgment was unanimous, agreed to by judges Mohammed Ismail, Selby Baqwa and Lebogang Modiba.

Zuma’s arms deal trial has been postponed to 15 and 16 August 2023. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Another court case, another defeat, but I don’t think Zuma, his lawyers and backers give a hoot about the outcomes, to be honest – just the griding process to keep him out of prison (again) for as long as possible. It’s almost as if they’re resigned to him being found guilty if his arms deal trial goes ahead, so this process is simply the best defence for keeping him out of jail. Disgusting that our courts can be clogged up by cases like this when there is such anarchic crime to deal with.

    • Quite agree.
      I remember years ago a judge mentioned to me “Zuma will never go to jail. They will just string out the court cases ad infinitum” Depressing. I suppose he and Shabir Shaik spend their time together playing draughts.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Let him grind I say. Burn the man’s money, neutralize him, and make his life unpleasant. It’s likely the best we’ll get and I’ll take it.

    • Rob Scott says:

      100% correct – no one lives forever and so long as he is innocent until then his legacy will be innocence.

  • John Counihan says:

    And the band plays on! Criminal JZ lives the life of Larry in Nkandla, whiling away the hours playing legal games with OPM (whose?), whereas he should be in orange serving a stiff sentence for high treason. Sad, hey?

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    Hardly a surprise since it was obvious to a 10 year old that this was nonsense ab initio ( as they say) ,dreamt up no doubt my the very “clever” mouthpiece for the mob. And yet the courts stood by playing this game instead of closing it down.

  • Hilary Morris says:

    And if anyone thinks this will stop his bullshit, think again. Mpofu is bound to encourage him to try the Constitutional court. Unlawful, unconstitutional and illegal would read to Zuma as encouragement to try again.
    Really, can’t he just be locked up already? Enough!

  • Penelope Meyer says:

    Any first-year law student would have predicted that his chances for success in this case are infinitesimal to nanoparticular. I cannot understand why the Legal Practice Council has not acted against the lawyers who persist in slavishly (for the money) bringing bad cases to the court only to have them slammed down. Abuse of process and abuse of the public purse. There should be an additional “cost to the taxpayer” award and the lawyers should be made to pay it. I say that as a lawyer, thoroughly ashamed of my colleagues. They should also have their fees waived.

    • dmpotulo says:

      Only Costs de bonis would deter lawyers from further persuing these groundless and baseless cases brought by that crook from inkandla.

    • Deon Botha-Richards says:

      Because the LPC has no capcity or intention or integrity to hold legal practisioners to account. They’re less than useless

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Until the Guptas, Zuma and politically connected tenderpreneurs really face the consequences of their premeditated actions, nothing will change. The lawlessness, corruption and disregard for fellow countrymen we are now facing can be squarely laid at the feet of these criminals….and the succour provided by the UAE as a safe haven for criminals doesn’t help our cause either.

  • William Kelly says:

    Where does he get the money from? SARS is doing us all a disservice by not checking this all out vs his taxes being paid. Their ‘auto’ assessments should pick up a coupla discrepencies one would have thought but I suppose those are only for tax payers, who are needed to fund the VIP protection unit, and of course to fund the costs of those that operate above the law.

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    Who pays for these legal gymnastics and how ethical are the legal practitioners supporting the behaviour?

    • Dragon Slayer says:

      Two sides of the same coin. May answer the question why the NPA has so few capable attorneys and advocates – the real
      money is in milking the defence of the those that have literally stolen the future of the average South African!

  • Rae Earl says:

    It’s about time the legal profession started setting precedents to curtail this sort of crap. Why not make it compulsive for criminals like Zuma to be in attendance at court to waste the hours away instead of being represented by their legal council. On the subject of lawyers and advocates etc, Dali Mpofu must surely be one of the worst performing lawyers in the country. How does he do it? He charges astronomical fees and loses nearly every case and yet his customers come streaming back to him. He must be really stupid in law to lose so many cases but he’s pretty sharp in the money collection dept.

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