Friday Briefing: Jacob Zuma and the education of Billy Downer
Billy Downer’s been waiting a long, long time for Jacob Zuma
There aren’t many people more involved in the tribulations (‘cause there have been no trials) of former president Jacob Zuma than Advocate William “Billy” Downer SC. He was the state prosecutor who disposed of the corrupt Schabir Shaik, Zuma’s close friend and benefactor, in a trial that lasted almost a year.
Consensus on the prosecuting team back then – 14 years ago, pre-Facebook, way before Twitter and when Netflix was still delivering VHS tapes via postage – was that the same set of forensic evidence used to sink Shaik was adequate to send Zuma to Kgosi Mampuru II Prison on Potgieter Street in Pretoria. But politics intervened and Downer has had to cool his heels while Zuma’s famous Stalingrad strategy played out to its fullest extent.
But Downer’s back in business. The High Court has rejected Zuma’s attempt to escape justice and a date has been set for pre-trial proceedings. There’s no doubt Zuma will try to frustrate the process some more, but his high noon is as close as it’s ever been. News24 specialist reporter Mandy Wiener profiles Downer in this week’s edition, while analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela considers a “firm line” that Zuma crossed, and will probably never return to. And I argue the former president’s diminishing was inevitable.
And: Up the Boks!
Pieter du Toit
Assistant editor: In-depth news
Nearly 20 years after the so-called arms deal docket came into the mustachioed prosecutor’s purview, the corruption case against the former president is still consuming senior State advocate Billy Downer’s time and energy. His long wait to see Jacob Zuma in court may finally be over.
Former president Jacob Zuma was never going to remain the all-powerful and omnipresent political figure that he thought, and many South Africans feared he would. His appearance this week in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg was just downright sad. Not even Carl Niehaus was there
Former president Jacob Zuma has proved with remarkable consistency his unflinching desire to cross the “firm line” between freedom fighter and politician. He also showed an ability to stubbornly remain on the other side of the “firm line” with no prospect of crossing back. Now he has one last chance to do so.