Former president Jacob Zuma’s legal team has accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of abusing court processes and state resources to avoid his day in court.
Ramaphosa vs Zuma
The full bench of the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg is hearing Ramaphosa’s application to block the summons for him to appear in court on 19 January, in private prosecution proceedings instituted by Zuma.
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The president has applied for an urgent interim interdict application after Zuma – on the eve of the ANC’s 55th elective conference in December – charged him with being an “accessory after the fact” in relation to charges his predecessor is pursuing against senior state prosecutor Billy Downer and journalist Karyn Maughan.
Zuma charged Downer and Maughan with allegedly contravening the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act, over the disclosure of a medical note from his doctor – without the authorisation of the national director of public prosecutions – that was filed during Zuma’s arms deal corruption trial in August 2021.
The former president has accused the pair of colluding to publicly release his medical information on 9 August, even though the medical note was part of the public court record filed by his own legal team.
‘Accessory after the fact’
Zuma has alleged that Ramaphosa committed a criminal offence by not acting against Downer and Maughan when he lodged a complaint with his office on 19 August.
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Ramaphosa has denied Zuma’s claims against him. He maintains that the former president’s nolle prosequi certificate – granted by the NPA in private prosecutions – does not apply to him.
The president has also accused Zuma of instituting “unlawful” private prosecution proceedings against him and trampling on his constitutional rights and integrity.
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Advocate Dali Mpofu, acting on behalf of Zuma, argued in court on Thursday that Ramaphosa was abusing court processes by seeking to interdict his predecessor’s private prosecution bid against him.
Mpofu argued that Zuma did not charge Ramaphosa in his capacity as the president of South Africa, but rather in his personal capacity.
This is despite the fact that Ramaphosa is being accused by Zuma of being “an accessory after the fact” for allegedly failing to act as the president of South Africa against Downer and Maughan for the alleged crime against them.
Mpofu said: “This abuse of a court process by those who are rich and who, in this case, are actually using state resources wrongly, because he [Ramaphosa] has not been charged as the president. It amounts to these 4 000 pages [Ramaphosa’s court papers] to try and do what?
“This case is about one thing and one thing only; to avoid the appearance [in court] next week. All these other gymnastics forget about them.”
‘Not the high and mighty’
Mpofu said other accused persons in South Africa, when summoned to appear before a court of law, followed the law, but Ramaphosa was seeking special treatment from the courts.
“That’s for the other 60 million inhabitants of South Africa, not the high and mighty. Not the president,” he said.
Mpofu added that Zuma, unlike Ramaphosa, had subjected himself to court processes and followed the law even though he felt persecuted.
“If there is a single person in this country who has been in and out of these courts for the past, I don’t know how many years… never did he [Zuma] say this is beneath me; this idea of being charged.”
This statement apparently misses the irony that Zuma was, in fact, sentenced to prison for refusing to appear before the state capture commission and found guilty of contempt in 2021.
NPA denies claims it’s shielding Ramaphosa
Advocate Tebogo Mathibedi, acting on behalf of the NPA, denied any suggestions that the NPA was shielding Ramaphosa from facing the law based on Mpofu’s suggestions earlier.
Advocate Mathibedi said there was no evidence to back up Mpofu’s insinuations, saying this was “pure speculation”.
“I imagine the news headline will be ‘NPA shielding the president’. My lord, we respectfully submit there is no factual and legal basis for making such an insinuation.”
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