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What next for Zuma after Ramaphosa private prosecution snub?

The political star of former South African president Jacob Zuma appears to be dimming following another floundering episode in his…

The political star of former South African president Jacob Zuma appears to be dimming following another floundering episode in his quest to have President Cyril Ramaphosa removed from power.Less than two weeks after an attempt by his backers to have Ramaphosa impeached in parliament over a hidden hard cash scandal hit the wall on December 13, Zuma has again been left with egg on his face after South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Wednesday that the private prosecution certificate it issued to the former president would not apply to Ramaphosa. 

In a shock move last week, Zuma instituted a private prosecution against Ramaphosa, accusing him of being an accessory to an alleged leak of the former president’s medical records to journalist Karyn Maughan by state prosecutor Billy Downer.

Zuma wanted to privately prosecute Ramaphosa for allegedly failing to act after the former president wrote to him in August 2021, “requesting and/or demanding that (Ramaphosa) take all the necessary steps to ensure the institution of an urgent investigation and/or inquiry into the conduct and/or alleged misconduct of the relevant public institutions and/or officials acting in their capacities as state functionaries”.

Ramaphosa, through the Office of the State Attorney, gave Zuma until Wednesday to withdraw the summons he had issued against the president, arguing that the summons were “defective” and an “abuse of process”.

In light of this, along with the other “defects”, the State Attorney said that Ramaphosa was entitled to ignore the summons.

In a statement on Wednesday, NPA’s head of prosecution services Rodney de Kock said the private prosecution certificates issued by the authority to Zuma and his legal team only applied to “any persons who are specifically mentioned in the docket” in the case involving the former president against Downer and Maughan.

“The president was not mentioned in any of the affidavits or statements and thus the certificates were not issued in relation to him,” de Kock said.

The Jacob Zuma Foundation on Thursday accused the NPA of lying about the issue.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. The statement is demonstrably false and it is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to rescue Ramaphosa,” foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi said.

A successful private prosecution of Ramaphosa would have given the Zuma faction in the ruling African National Congress ammunition to force the president to step aside from his duties until the conclusion of the criminal case as per the party’s regulations.

It remains to be seen whether the former president has another ace up his sleeve in his bid to have Ramaphosa removed from power.

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