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Zuma’s health is deteriorating; arms deal case set to be put on ice

Former South African president Jacob Zuma. File Picture: Nic Bothma/Pool via Reuters

Former South African president Jacob Zuma. File Picture: Nic Bothma/Pool via Reuters

Published Aug 10, 2021


DURBAN - FORMER president Jacob Zuma’s hospitalisation may take longer, delaying his court appearance as his health is reportedly deteriorating.

A close relative with knowledge of the matter has indicated that the incarcerated 79-year-old was still in hospital and not responding well to treatment.

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“I have not seen the old man, but from what I’ve heard from the elders, he is not doing well. This is expected. It’s excruciatingly difficult for him and everyone else.”

“I am hopeful he’ll be okay and his foundation will provide details in terms of the court appearance he’s supposed to make on Tuesday.”

Last week, Zuma scored a victory in the Pietermaritzburg High Court when presiding Judge Piet Koen ruled that the hearing – where the former ANC leader wanted the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) advocate Billy Downer SC not to lead his arms deal corruption prosecution – should be heard in person instead of using virtual platforms.

The NPA had opposed it, arguing that Zuma’s presence in court would pose a huge security risk, citing the mid-July unrest and looting that followed his 15-month jailing for contempt of court. Zuma’s legal team, led by advocate Dali Mpofu, argued that as an accused, he was constitutionally mandated to be in court when a matter involving him was heard. Judge Koen allowed Zuma and his legal team to be in court.

On Friday, Correctional Services announced that Zuma had been hospitalised to undergo a routine medical check-up by military health services. His hospitalisation prompted the Jacob Zuma Foundation to state that it was awaiting a report from his doctors and asked his supporters to keep him in their prayers.

By Monday the NPA and Zuma’s lawyers, argued that Tuesday’s sitting would be about seeking a postponement.

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Jacob Zuma Foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi said: “The NPA on behalf of all the parties sent a joint letter to Judge Koen reflecting the parties’ agreement to postpone the hearing at the Pietermaritzburg High Court due to the hospitalisation of president Zuma. On August 10 at 10am the matter will be heard virtually for postponement.”

On Monday, NPA spokesperson advocate Mthunzi Mhaga confirmed that Zuma’s legal team would make an application for a postponement virtually. “It’s unfortunate that there will be a postponement as our team is ready to argue the special plea but these are circumstances beyond our control.”

Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said they were unsure when Zuma would be discharged from the external hospital where his medical check-up was being conducted.

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Despite the setback, Nkosentsha Shezi, the national chairperson of RET (Radical Economic Transformation) Champion, a formation backing Zuma, said they were ready to be in court to support him.

On Friday, the Constitutional Court issued directives to the State, Zuma’s legal teams and other parties to each submit a document addressing International Law and the constitutional implications of Zuma’s ongoing detention.

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