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NPA finds Zuma’s ‘timing’ to lay criminal charges against its advocate concerning

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has expressed its concern about former president Jacob Zuma’s “timing” with regards to his decision to on Thursday lay criminal charges against its advocate, Billy Downer, for allegedly leaking the former president’s medical record to the media.

Last month, Zuma’s legal team gave the NPA the former president’s medical records as evidence that he could not attend court.

Downer is the NPA’s lead prosecutor in Zuma’s arms deal matter. Last month, the former president’s legal team asked the Pietermaritzburg High Court to remove Downer from the case because he allegedly has a political agenda against Zuma. The court is due to deliver its judgment on that application on Tuesday, 26 October 2021.

On Thursday, the former president’s foundation laid criminal charges against Downer at the Pietermaritzburg Police Station. The foundation had said in a statement that Downer had been in breach of sections 41(6) read with 41(7) of the NPA Act for allegedly leaking Zuma’s medical records.

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The section of the act “prohibits disclosing of information without the permission of the national director” of public prosecutions, according to the NPA’s national spokesperson, Advocate Mthunzi Mhaga.

“The NPA is committed to upholding due process and the rule of law and will assess the merits of the charges in an objective manner. We also note that these charges are laid while the matter is subject to judicial determination by the High Court in Pietermaritzburg and judgment is expected to be delivered on 26 October 2021.

“While the law must be allowed to follow its course, the NPA is concerned about the context within which these charges have been laid, and the timing in light of the pending judgement of the High Court,” Mhaga said.

Mhaga added that Downer “is a highly respected prosecutor who has carried himself with integrity throughout his career in the NPA”.

“His reputation speaks for itself. All NPA prosecutors are required to act without fear and favour and should feel confident to deliver on their mandates without fear of intimidation. However, we will allow the Director of Public Prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal to deal with the matter as and when she receives the case docket from the police.”

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