Zuma wants answers on 'secret and inappropriate discussions' between KZN judge president and state
Former president Jacob Zuma has accused the state of inappropriately corresponding with KwaZulu-Natal judge president Achmat Jappie on criminal proceedings against him.
In a letter to Jappie and KwaZulu-Natal deputy judge president Mjabuliseni Isaac Madondo on Monday, Zuma's lawyer Eric Mabuza requested an explanation for “what appears to be secret and inappropriate discussions” between the state and Jappie.
Mabuza was referring to an e-mail sent on May 20 by state advocate Billy Downer to Jappie. The e-mail was allegedly sent “pursuant to your request to be informed of the expected duration of the trial and a proposed trial date”.
On Tuesday Mabuza confirmed that he had sent the letter, which was leaked on Twitter, to Jappie and Madondo to address the inappropriate correspondence and the rejection of the state's suggestion that the trial be postponed to next year.
“Of course, Mr Zuma is very concerned about this matter as it is a serious matter. It cannot be ignored,” he told TimesLIVE.
He has not received a response to the letter.
“We will have to wait to see if we do receive a response and then we will have to meet our client to discuss it. It’s a serious matter and we need time to address it,” Mabuza said.
In the letter, Mabuza said Zuma had objected to the correspondence on the basis that his legal team was not party to or informed of the communication between Jappie and the state. Furthermore, Zuma was concerned that it appeared that Jappie, who had not been involved in the case against him, had initiated the correspondence when his legal team's understanding was that Madondo was the only designated judicial officer with whom parties should communicate in respect of the management of the case.
Zuma was also concerned that the state had discussed the merits of the case with Jappie.
“Unless a satisfactory explanation is given our client will be left with no choice but to suspect that there are attempts to manipulate the composition of the bench which ought to hear this matter. We have indicated to our client that this must be some misunderstanding or genuine error. However, given the history of this matter and how he believes he is being persecuted by the system, he remains apprehensive and concerned by what appears to be secret and inappropriate discussions between the state and the honourable judge president.”
Mabuza said Zuma humbly requests an explanation as to how “this situation was allowed to occur”.
“On the basis of that explanation and any proposed remedial measures, he will consider whether or not there is still a need to escalate the matter any further to the Judicial Services Commission and or the chief justice or the integrity division within the office of the national director of public prosecutions.
Director of public prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal advocate Elaine Zungu said the National Prosecuting Authority could confirm that the correspondence was conducted in the normal course.
“Any issues arising will be dealt with during proceedings; the merits of which are not discussed as they are sub judice.”
The office of the chief justice could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the Jacob Zuma Foundation was "dismayed and concerned" by the latest developments.
“Firstly, the state is now seeking to postpone the trial to a date in 2021 stating, among other reasons, that the prosecution needs more time to prepare for the trial despite having repeatedly stated to the court that it was ready to proceed. The state has also repeatedly accused former president JG Zuma of delaying the trial and having caused the court to issue a warrant of arrest for former president JG Zuma for non-attendance at court while having been given prior notice of his unavailability for health reasons.
“The foundation thus places on record as previously stated, that former president JG Zuma is ready to proceed with the trial immediately and that it is now the state that is seeking postponement of the trial on a variety of frivolous grounds at this point,” it said in a statement.
The foundation said Downer's correspondence with Jappie casts a dark shadow on the fairness of the legal process and the prospects of a fair trial.
“The foundation thus calls upon the chief justice and Judicial Services Commission to look into these developments with the view of restoring the integrity of the legal system of SA. The foundation reiterates that the injustice and prejudice that former president JG Zuma continues to suffer at the hands of the state is a violation of his right to be treated equally before the law and his right to fair trial.
“The foundation further calls upon the state to reveal the contents of its communication with the judges in this case and provide reasons in law that warrant and justify this conduct to prove to the SA public that there are no ulterior motives that inform their treatment of former president JG Zuma.”