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Jacob Zuma appeal against journalist Karyn Maughan and advocate Billy Downer dismissed with costs by Supreme Court of Appeal

Jacob Zuma appeal against journalist Karyn Maughan and advocate Billy Downer dismissed with costs by Supreme Court of Appeal
Former president Jacob Zuma in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on 22 March 2023. (Photo: Darren Stewart / Gallo Images)

‘The appeal is dismissed with costs, including those of two counsel, to be paid on the attorney and client scale,’ read the latest judgement against former president Jacob Zuma, in his latest legal battle — this time against journalist Karyn Maughan and advocate Billy Downer. 

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has dismissed with costs an application by Jacob Zuma against journalist Karyn Maughan and advocate Billy Downer in his private prosecution of the pair. The judgement was handed down electronically on Friday 13 October. 

“The appeal is dismissed with costs, including those of two counsel, to be paid on the attorney and client scale,” read the judgement. 

maughan downer zuma

Karyn Maughan and Billy Downer at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on 2 February 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

The case by Zuma stemmed from a private prosecution in the Pietermaritzburg high court, against Downer and Maughan. On 5 September 2022, Zuma contended that Downer contravened provisions of the National Prosecuting Act when he supposedly “leaked” a document to Maughan containing his private medical information. The medical information was contained in a letter from a military doctor, submitted in August 2021 in support of an application for a postponement in Zuma’s Arms Deal trial

Downer is a lead prosecutor for the National Prosecuting Authority and has worked on cases against Zuma, including the prosecution of Schabir Shaik, who was convicted of corruption in 2005.

Maughan, a legal journalist at News24, has been reporting on the various allegations against Zuma including criminal investigations, criminal indictments and numerous legal challenges and proceedings for several years. 

Downer and Maughan applied separately to the high court to have the private prosecution set aside as an abuse of process of the court. 

On 7 June 2023, the Pietermaritzburg high court, in a judgment running to 63 pages, set aside the criminal summons against Maughan and Downer. The court ordered Zuma to pay costs on a punitive scale. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: SLAPP down — Jacob Zuma fails in attempted private prosecution of Billy Downer and Karyn Maughan

Zuma then applied for leave to appeal the main judgement, which was then dismissed on 11 September. According to Friday’s judgement, at the time of the leave to appeal being dismissed, “at the bar in this Court, we were informed that a petition to this Court will follow and, if that fails, an application will be made to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal”. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Jacob Zuma’s private prosecution of journalist Karyn Maughan puts media freedom on trial

According to the judgement, both Downer and Maughan contend that Zuma has engaged “in an unremitting campaign to delay the commencement of his criminal trial and that, to allow the proposed private prosecution to proceed, would mean that he would be allowed to succeed in his strategy of delay”. 

Ultimately, the court agreed that the appeal is dismissed with costs, including those of two counsel to be paid on the attorney and client scale. DM

This is a developing story.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Matthew Cocks says:

    This is so tiring…he loses every case…what a lover!!!

    • A.K.A. Fred says:

      Yep, but he wins a delay every time – exactly what he wants. He wants the delays to last his lifetime – and then the problem goes away for him. The only thing that will scare him is to start developing the prosecution to target all assets and wealth that he and his family have crookedly acquired (whether he is alive or not) and then take those back for the South African population. That’s the only way justice will be served. If they did that, it would be good enough for me. Will it happen?……

  • Johan Buys says:

    Gwede is going on about disclosure of who funds the various NGO that have won legal battles against the state.

    SARS wants to know who funds former prisoner Zuma’s multiple legal battles of which many included cost and punitive cost awards against Zuma. If somebody else is paying, that is a donation subject to donations tax in the hands of the donor. If the former prisoner is paying, how does that outflow square up with his income tax affairs?

    • Caroline de Braganza says:

      Good question.

      • Dominic Rooney says:

        Jacob Zuma Foundation ? From another Maverick story (Shelagh Gastrow, 24/8/21) : The JZGF “… is registered as a public benefit organisation (PBO) with the SA Revenue Service. This means that its activities are meant to be for the public benefit, most of which are outlined in Schedule 9 of the Income Tax Act, including, inter alia, welfare, healthcare, housing, education, conservation and research.

        The foundation is therefore tax exempt and can offer tax certificates to its donors so that a portion of their donation can come off their tax returns.” Sounds very cozy for both donors and recipients.

  • Con Tester says:

    This feeble and sparsely informative article neglects to mention the SCA’s scathing condemnation of Zuma’s persistent pursuit of Maughan in particular as a “steady erosion of not just her liberty and dignity, but [these violations] will also likely discourage other journalists from reporting on powerful individuals for fear of similar reprisals.”

    C’mon, DM, soft-pedalling this stuff is exactly what the judgement exhorts you not to do! The judiciary and the fourth estate are the only parts of the country that have any chance of pulling things right. Please don’t squander that power with diffident reportage.

  • Les Thorpe says:

    And now for something completely different . . . . an application to the ConCourt!!!

    As it has been reported elsewhere that Zuma now owes something like R30m in legal expenses as incurred over the past five or more years, but hasn’t paid a cent, it’s obvious that he hasn’t the slightest intention of paying and that any court determination on costs is purely academic and carries no accountability or enforcement.

  • Henry Henry says:

    Any lawyer, even the most daft, could have have told you on day one, that this application had no merit whatsoever.
    It was devoid of any legal reality.
    And that says a lot about Zuma’s legal team. Not necessarily about Zuma himself – he’s a legal analphabet. But about his lawyers.
    It’s about playing, gaming, ridiculing, trashing, rubbishing, a legal system.
    An endeavour to make it laughable, hillarious.
    Yet they’re silks?? Should they not be “desilked”?

  • Chris Lee says:

    Unusual to award attorney and client costs – which is punitive. If he doesn’t get that message, there really is no hope for him.

  • Hidden Name says:

    Surely there should be consequences for legal representation? They absolutely knew the application had no chance of success. Pretty sure there is an ethical obligation placed on them NOT to do that sort of thing? Also pretty sure that they can be disbarred for it. So why is no one going after them?

  • Frank Fox says:

    The award of costs, while appropriate, is a bit of a joke. When has he ever paid? Can anyone count the millions he owes across all the cases he has lost. I think we need to see costs awarded against his lawyers for frivolous and vexatious action. Maybe that will stop this, they are also to blame.

    • Con Tester says:

      CJ Zondo recently expressed concern that, two years on, the Sate Attorney has yet to make any move to recover an estimated R36-million in corruption trial defence costs from Zuma, despite court orders to do so.

      Courts can’t enforce their own orders; enforcement requires a functioning executive arm of the state, and a properly functioning executive requires a properly functioning legislature that does its oversight job with diligence and alacrity. The ANC has gutted both, kicking two of three legs out from under SA’s democracy.

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