Private prosecution of Zuma a tough call

2009-04-09 00:00

Opposition parties planning to bring a private prosecution against ANC president Jacob Zuma may find their efforts thwarted.

Ironically, this could arise because of a recent case in which local magistrate Ashin Singh attempted to bring a private prosecution against Billy Downer, chief prosecutor in the Zuma case, and other members of the National Prosecuting authority (NPA), including its former§ head, Bulelani Ngcuka.

To pursue a private prosecution, the parties will have to apply to the public prosecutor for a certificate that says the state will not be prosecuting Zuma — a certificate nolle prosequi.

In order to obtain this, they will have to fulfil a number of criteria in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.

This will mean DA leader Helen Zille, who has indicated that a private prosecution is still an option, will have to:

• Provide the court with evidence of the offences that Zuma allegedly committed.

• Show that she has some substantial and peculiar interest in the issues of the trial.

• Show that such interest arose out of some injury that she personally suffered.

• Show that the injury was suffered in consequence of the commission of the alleged offence.

In Singh’s case, Judge A.J. Hollis found that he failed in his founding papers to fulfil these criteria.

The background to the matter was that Singh was expelled from his job as an investigator in the Directorate of Special Operations. His bosses prosecuted him on various counts arising from offences he allegedly committed in the course of his duties. The prosecution failed and a permanent stay of prosecution was granted on the grounds that the evidence against Singh had been obtained illegally.

Singh then laid criminal charges against his former bosses and when this matter dragged on he applied for a certificate nolle prosequi so that he could pursue a private prosecution. He lost the case because he failed to prove how he had suffered as an individual.

Singh said that not only will Zille have to prove personal injury, but also provide security for the costs of a case. “So it would appear that this talk of private prosecution is more of an election ploy,” he said.

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