‘Abuse of process’ – high court delivers fresh blow to Zuma, swats aside bid to prosecute Ramaphosa
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The court added that the certificate issued on 6 June was no longer valid by 15 December, when Zuma tried to prosecute Ramaphosa.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