Heated end to day in Maughan, Downer application contesting private prosecution by Zuma

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  • The lawyer for News24 legal journalist Karyn Maughan was visibly irate in the final hour of the application hearings against former president Jacob Zuma's private prosecution of the reporter and prosecutor Billy Downer.
  • Maughan and Downer launched applications challenging Zuma's private prosecution and was scheduled to sit for two days.
  • Zuma's lawyer made long-winded submissions and went at least an hour beyond his allocated time towards the end of the day, something Maughan's lawyer took exception to.

The lawyer for News24 legal journalist Karyn Maughan was irate during the final hour of hearings for applications challenging former president Jacob Zuma's private prosecution of the reporter and prosecutor Billy Downer.

After nearly five hours of submissions by advocate Dali Mpofu for Zuma on Wednesday, advocate Steven Budlender Jnr, was visibly irate at Mpofu insisting on continually trying to make points, when other legal representatives still had not replied to him - with less than an hour remaining in the day.

After conferring with court staff, the three sitting judges ruled the case would continue for another hour, giving Budlender an opportunity to respond.

Key takeaways for the day:

1. While Mpofu waffled about various laws and took hours on end to make simple points, Budlender Jnr took less than 30 minutes and seemingly managed to command the attention of the judges and courtroom.

Commenting on Mpofu's long arguments, Budlender Jnr said: "What you have been treated to with respect, is a spectacle. The arguments from Mr Mpofu are not legal arguments, but speeches for television cameras and the public. The case is not just weak, it is non-existent and a mirage."

READ | Sanef members turn their backs on Carl Niehaus outside court as Zuma vs Downer, Maughan case is heard

While Mpofu attempted to interrupt Budlender Jnr, the judges asked Budlender Jnr to continue with the lawyer saying he would "focus on facts and legal principles at hand" rather than putting on a spectacle. He also accused Mpofu of filibustering, something Mpofu asked the court to record was not true.

2. Budlender Jnr also pointed out - contrary to claims by Zuma's lawyers - Maughan never gave a statement to the police and was never identified as a suspect.

He accused Zuma's lawyers of failing to address his argument, that the nolle prosequi certificate used by Zuma to justify his private prosecution, could not be a lawful basis for the prosecution.

3. Budlender Jnr urged the bench to examine the letter which Zuma based his private prosecution on to establish whether any confidential information was disclosed.

He had pointed out Judge Piet Koen found there was a questionable basis for Zuma to claim there was a breach of his confidentiality.

Budlender Jnr also noted Mpofu himself effectively admitted in arguments the letter did not contain any confidential information in the postponement argument.

4. After being repeatedly accused of using the so-called Stalingrad strategy to slow Zuma's prosecution down through court processes, Mpofu, in an animated fashion, said Zuma "has never sheepishly run away from facing a court of law".

READ | Court hears Zuma 'fabricated evidence', revived NPA plot claims in case against Maughan, Downer

"Zuma is a former president, but comes to court dutifully, and that he sends a note when he is sick."

Mpofu said the same did not apply to Downer or Maughan because they launched an application to have the private prosecution set aside.

5. At the start of the day, there was an exchange between Zuma diehard supporter Carl Niehaus and SA National Editors' Forum executive director Reggy Moalusi.

After Niehaus attempted to tell a crowd of Maughan supporters they did not understand the Constitution, the group turned their backs on him, sending Niehaus away while they continued their peaceful picket. 

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