Zuma's private prosecution of Maughan, Downer postponed in less than a minute

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Former president Jacob Zuma with his legal team in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg.
Former president Jacob Zuma with his legal team in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg.
PHOTO: Kaveel Singh/News24
  • The private prosecution against senior State advocate Billy Downer and News24 legal journalist Karyn Maughan has been postponed.
  • Former president Jacob Zuma launched the private prosecution last year after Downer shared public information with Maughan on surgery Zuma had to undergo.
  • The matter was postponed because the court first wants to hear an application Maughan had lodged to have the private prosecution set aside.

Former president Jacob Zuma's private prosecution of State advocate Billy Downer and News24 journalist Karyn Maughan has been postponed to 4 August.

It took the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg less than a minute to postpone the matter to accommodate Maughan's pending application to have the private prosecution set aside.

Zuma made his first appearance in court as the private prosecutor on 10 October, last year. He alleges that Downer and Maughan contravened a section of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act that prohibits NPA employees from disclosing private documents to members of the public.

READ | Zuma praises Fraser for saving his life, tells ConCourt he 'faced death itself in prison'

The document that's central to the private prosecution is a letter that his military doctor, Mcebisi Mdutywa, had written to the State ahead of his corruption trial, while he was in Estcourt Prison, to say that he had to be transported to Pretoria for urgent medical surgery for treatment for a "traumatic injury" he had suffered a year before.

The letter was attached to court papers the State and Zuma had filed ahead of the case. Maughan asked the State's counsel for a copy of the papers. After counsel electronically filed the papers with the court, Maughan received a copy.

She published a story on News24, quoting both sets of court papers and the Mdutywa letter, which also formed part of the papers filed by Zuma's own lawyer, which were public documents.

The letter is not a medical record. Instead, it is a doctor's note informing the court of Zuma's transportation to a Pretoria hospital for urgent surgery following a "traumatic injury" he suffered in the past.

Maughan wants the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg to scrap the private prosecution.

She outlined three core reasons, including the fact that Zuma did not obtain a nolle prosequi certificate against her.

A nolle prosequi certificate is a document that states the NPA does not intend to prosecute someone - a requirement for a private prosecution.

Maughan also contends that Zuma is abusing the court process to intimidate, harass and bully her to prevent her from reporting on Zuma's corruption case any further.

She says Zuma did not suffer any injury as a result of her published piece and therefore doesn't have legal standing.

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