Prosecutor hates me, Zuma says in latest court salvo
Former president says prosecutor Billy Downer is seeking his prosecution and conviction 'at all costs'
Former president Jacob Zuma has accused the lead prosecutor in his corruption case of being driven by “hatred” towards him – and has attacked the National Prosecuting Authority for prosecuting him with “callousness and recklessness”.
“As a result of the manner in which the NPA has determined to prosecute me and conducted the prosecution, my rights to a fair trial have been significantly infringed,” he states in court papers filed on Monday at the Durban High Court.
Zuma is fighting to have the corruption, fraud, racketeering and tax evasion case against him – which has its genesis in events that played out in the late 1990s – permanently stayed.
If he fails, he will go on trial on charges that could see him serving 25 years behind bars.
In his final affidavit to the high court, Zuma argues that the NPA – which for years argued that political meddling had forced it to withdraw all charges against him – was contradicting itself by now arguing that he must face charges, and that this alleged interference was irrelevant to whether his prosecution should proceed.
Prosecutions heavyweight Willie Hofmeyr was adamant, during the so-called spy tapes court battle, that the meddling of former prosecutions head Bulelani Ngcuka and then Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy in the timing of when Zuma was recharged with corruption in 2007, had irretrievably tainted the case against him.
That argument was completely rejected by the Pretoria High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal, which slammed Hofmeyr’s evidence and dismissed the NPA’s reasoning as irrational and unlawful.
Lead Zuma prosecutor Billy Downer, who is making the state’s case for the former president’s prosecution to go ahead, has also effectively rubbished Hofmeyr’s reasoning – and vehemently denied that Zuma’s prosecution had been fatally compromised by questionable NPA decisions and undue delay.
Zuma has accused Downer – who he says has a “hatred” of him – of trying to “gloss over” the contradictions in the NPA’s stance on his prosecution, and whether it should proceed.
“I believe he did this to magnify his deeply held belief that I should be prosecuted and convicted at all costs.
“It is difficult to appreciate how a prosecutor of his experience should ignore that my rights have grossly been violated by the NPA regardless of his obvious aversion towards me.”
Zuma is adamant that he should have been put on trial with his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who was convicted in 2005 of keeping him on a corrupt retainer to do his bidding. Shaik was also found guilty of facilitating a R500,000-a-year bribe for Zuma from French arms company Thales, in exchange for his protection from any potential arms deal investigation.
At the time Shaik was charged, then prosecutions head Bulelani Ngcuka said he had decided not to charge Zuma – despite there being prima facie evidence against him – because he was not sure that case was winnable. He did so against the advice of Downer and his prosecution team.
Downer says he does not believe Ngcuka’s decision was driven by the improper political motives alleged by Zuma.
Zuma is not buying that argument.
“He [Downer] has been consistent that his advice to the NPA was that I should have been charged with Shaik. However, in this answering affidavit he is extremely selective and tiptoes around the truth, and relies on conjecture and unreasonable inferences.
Zuma further says he “suffered very real and serious irremediable personal, social and trial prejudice” as a result of the state’s alleged “unreasonable delays” in putting him on trial.
“It would be improper to allow the NPA to proceed with the prosecution given political interference, the unreasonable delay as well as the impact this prolonged case has already had on my personal and political life,” he argues.
Zuma’s permanent stay of prosecution application will be heard next month.