Thumbs up and Downer: Zuma specifically picked Mpofu to represent him

Dali Mpofu gets to work straight away, presenting special plea calling for removal of lead prosecutor Billy Downer

26 May 2021 - 15:09
By nivashni nair AND Nivashni Nair

Former president Jacob Zuma asked for adv Dali Mpofu to represent him at his fraud and corruption trial.

A well-placed source confirmed shortly after court proceedings at the Pietermaritzburg High Court were adjourned on Wednesday, that Zuma had specifically asked for Mpofu.

“Why did Dali Mpofu take this case? Because the client asked his attorney to brief Mpofu, and his attorney did so; Mpofu took on the case. Zuma wanted Mpofu to represent him,” he said.

Zuma believes that if his application to remove Downer is successful, he should be acquitted.

On Wednesday morning, Mpofu confirmed he would represent the former president. He told the court Zuma reserved his right to not disclose the basis of his defence against fraud and corruption charges.

Zuma pleaded not guilty to racketeering, corruption, fraud and money laundering.

The court has heard that Zuma is pursuing a special plea calling for the removal of lead prosecutor adv Billy Downer.

Mpofu told the court Zuma believed his right to a fair trial would be jeopardised because Downer was not impartial.

All you need to know | Zuma returns to court

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He said Downer was a witness against Zuma when the DA called for a review after the National Prosecuting Authority did not want to pursue charges against the former president.

This was an example of Downer being driven by a political motive and not being impartial, Mpofu said.

Zuma believes that if his application to remove Downer is successful, he should be acquitted.

However, Downer told the court that counsel had been instructed to deal with the special plea, as he could not do it because he was the subject of the application.

NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwenya said advocates Wim Trengove, Andrew Breitenbach, Hephzibah Rajah and Ncumisa Mayosi had been appointed and “effectively given a delegation in terms of the NPA Act to be prosecutors in this matter”.

The matter will be argued on July 19 after both parties exchange heads of arguments.

Zuma’s plea is his latest move to put an end to the prosecution. Zuma is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500,000 from French arms dealer Thales for protection from an investigation into the controversial arms deal.

The alleged bribe was facilitated by Schabir Shaik, who was Zuma’s former financial advice. 

After the formal proceedings Zuma headed outside where hundreds of supporters sang and danced as they waited in Freedom Square to be addressed by him. 

About 1,000 people had gathered in the demarcated area that had been set up for a mini-rally where Zuma and senior ANC officials, including suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and KZN premier Sihle Zikalala, spoke.

A beaming Zuma earned whistles and cheers from the crowd as he performed his signature dance moves before thanking his supporters.

“I want to thank you all. Especially for today, when you came to support me in numbers. I hope that come the end of this trial, fairness will be seen  as well as the fact that I have never stolen anything from anybody,” he said.

“Biasedness of the law seems to be rising. I wish to see the law working fairly and not be biased, in order for us to respect it. If the lawmakers don’t respect the law, how will we? I trust that your presence here will help us all to do the right thing.”

Magashule made a short appearance, greeting the crowd before introducing Zikalala. The KZN premier reminded the crowd of Zuma's long history with the ANC.

Duduzane Zuma proved as popular as his father when he briefly addressed the crowd.

Earlier, Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) spokesperson Carl Niehaus maintained his support for Zuma and criticised the long delay in the trial.

“I am here to support president Zuma and the national executive committee of the ANC has said that ANC members are perfectly within their rights to support president Zuma. The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal is directly involved in the organising of this event in their support for president Zuma,” he said.