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Zuma wants corruption trial postponed but Downer claims he is abusing the system

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Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Piet Koen has adjourned the case until 2pm so that he may reflect on the arguments. Koen will deliver his judgment then.

Advocate Dali Mpofu is representing former president Jacob Zuma in his arms deal trial. Picture: Theo Jeptha/African News Agency (ANA)

FORMER president Jacob Zuma’s application to adjourn his arms deal trial until the Supreme Court of Appeal reconsiders his petition is not another delay tactic, his lawyer advocate Dali Mpofu argued in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday.

Zuma, whose corruption trial was meant to start on Monday, called in sick after he failed to appear in court in person. Mpofu told the court that there was a “medical emergency” in the last few hours and that Zuma’s doctors advised that he not travel to court.

Mpofu said they were waiting for further information and a medical document to present to court. However, he had been instructed to continue with the application for adjournment in Zuma’s absence.

Mpofu argued for the corruption case against Zuma to be postponed indefinitely so that the former president could pursue his various appeals, including their request to the president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Mandisa Maya, to reconsider their petition.

Zuma wants state prosecutor, advocate Billy Downer recused as the chief prosecutor of his arms deal corruption case, accusing him of bias and having acted unlawfully on several occasions while handling confidential information.

The SCA and Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Piet Koen dismissed the former statesman’s previous attempts to remove Downer by ruling that there was “no reasonable prospect of success” in his arguments.

However, Zuma has since approached Maya to relook at his arguments.

The State is strongly opposing this.

Addressing the court, Downer stressed that there was clear case law that urged the court not to entertain applications that were aimed at delaying justice. He said such acts could only erode the public’s faith in the judicial system.

Downer argued that the courts were being abused. He said that Monday’s trial date came after nearly two decades of delays. Downer further argued that Zuma’s application for an indefinite adjournment was part of his continued “Stalingrad tactics” and attempts to avoid trial.

However, Mpofu took offence to Downer’s argument, saying there was no evidence to substantiate this claim.

“Firstly, apart from speculation, corridor talk and gossip, there is not even a shred of evidence to support the theory that Mr Zuma’s intention in challenging the decisions of this Honourable Court in a higher court is to delay the trial.

“Mr Zuma has consistently done everything he can for this trial to proceed,” Mpofu said.

Judge Koen earlier told Mpofu that the future of the Zuma trial did require judicial oversight.

Judge Koen says if he grants an adjournment, it would be for about six weeks or a month and only to allow SCA Justice Maya to make a decision. Koen told Mpofu,”this cannot be an open-ended process”.

Koen has adjourned the case until 2pm so that he may reflect on the arguments. Koen will deliver his judgement then.

Political Bureau

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