Zuma's special plea case 'a rerun of same complaints', says Wim Trengove

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  • Jacob Zuma's corruption case is back in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg.
  • Zuma, who was not in court on Tuesday, argues Billy Downer lacks "title" to prosecute him.
  • But NPA lawyer Wim Trengove says the country needs more prosecutors like Downer. 

While former president Jacob Zuma says prosecutor Billy Downer lacks the "title" to prosecute him, the lawyer representing the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says the country needs more prosecutors like Downer.

Arguing before the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday, advocate Wim Trengove SC, for the NPA, said it was not "competent" for Zuma's lawyers to argue the NPA did not have the title to prosecute the former president.

Zuma's lawyers were in court to argue for a "special plea" application made under Section 106(1)(h) of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Zuma was not in court during proceedings.

The former president has accused Downer of turning his criminal case into "a personal legacy project of his own". Zuma wants Downer removed from the corruption case, saying he did not have a "lawful title" to prosecute him.

Billy Downer, the National Prosecuting Authority l
Billy Downer, photographed in a court during a previous sitting.

But on Tuesday, Trengove said it was clear Downer had the title to prosecute the former president. He slammed Zuma's lawyers for attacking Downer, saying the prosecutor "should be given a medal".

Trengove added Downer "stood up for justice and truth every time and stood up to his bosses every time".

READ | Zuma says SA is becoming 'constitutional dictatorship' after he loses in court

He told the court that Zuma had tried to "dress up" his fair trial complaints - which have repeatedly failed in other court cases - as a "special plea", saying it was a rerun of the same complaints, saying:

There is nothing new about it. There is nothing exceptional about it.

Trengove argued that during their last appearance in court they demonstrated that 130 paragraphs of Zuma's special plea were "copy-pasted" from the former president's aborted bid to appeal the dismissal of his permanent stay application in the Constitutional Court.

"Same old, same old," he said.  

READ | Zuma to take ConCourt battle to African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights

Trengove also defended Downer, saying there was no evidence to suggest he ever released information about the Zuma case to anyone.

"None whatsoever."

He agreed with Zuma's lawyers that Downer had insisted the former president be prosecuted, adding: "Well, yes he did again and again, and he was right."

News24 previously reported the former president had accused Downer of lacking the independence and impartiality to conduct the case lawfully.

But the NPA previously pointed out the courts had already conclusively found an application for the removal of a prosecutor on the basis of bias or an apprehension of bias could not be conflated with a challenge to the prosecutor's "title" to prosecute - which was often raised when non-State advocates were briefed to pursue private prosecutions. 

ALSO READ | Zuma 'ill-advised' to go to African court over ConCourt battle - legal expert

In May, Zuma pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, including corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering, News24 reported.

The former president faces 16 charges relating to 783 payments he allegedly received from his former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, as well as a R500 000-a-year bribe that the State said Shaik facilitated for him from French arms company Thales.

The case is back in court again on Wednesday.  

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