Court deems request for Jacob Zuma’s medical records ’premature’
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Durban - Following Tuesday’s minor victory where former president Jacob Zuma and his lawyers were able to thwart a frantic bid by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to have his medical records handed over to the court, the case will resume today for final rounds of arguments.
The first matter before the tray of Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Piet Koen was whether Zuma was fit to come to court or not.
A previous appearance had to be shelved as it was argued that he was not well enough to be physically present after being freed on medical parole on September 5.
In court on Tuesday, the NPA failed in its bid to force Zuma to hand over his medical records in order to back up his claims that he is not well.
Advocate Wim Trengove SC was representing the NPA in the matter.
It later emerged during arguments in court that the NPA had subpoenaed information from the Department of Correctional Services which recently granted Zuma medical parole, citing ill health.
Among other information that was to be presented was some from the military health services. However, it later emerged that the military doctors protested the summons from the NPA, saying it was premature as the parties were exchanging information about the extent of Zuma’s ailments.
It also emerged before the court that the NPA may have applied pressure unduly on the Department of Correctional Services to release the medical information that Correctional Services boss Arthur Fraser relied on to free Zuma on medical parole.
Zuma’s lead lawyer, advocate Dali Mpofu SC, told Judge Koen that the request for such information was prejudicial to Zuma as his parole was being challenged in court by a host of parties such as the DA, AfriForum and the Helen Suzman Foundation and making such information available in an unrelated case could arm these parties.
Before Mpofu, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC, who was representing Fraser and the Correctional Services Department, raised concerns that the NPA allegedly bullied departmental officials to write affidavits without having proper legal advice.
In the end, after fierce arguments, Judge Koen ruled that the NPA's request to have Zuma’s medical record handed over was premature. The case then proceeded to why Zuma feels State advocate Billy Downer SC should be removed as the lead prosecutor of his arms deal trial.
In the second part of the case, after Judge Koen temporarily put the matter of the medical record aside, Mpofu and advocate Thabani Masuku SC took turns to convince the court why Downer should recuse himself and not lead the prosecution of Zuma for his alleged arms deal corruption.
Mpofu insisted that Downer and the NPA had partly conceded that some information was leaked and the case had been discussed with other parties outside formal structures.
He added that another matter that has compromised Downer was that he had conceded that he shed tears when the then head of the NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe, had previously decided to withdraw the charges against Zuma based on the spy tapes.
Mpofu argued that Downer’s tears were beyond the professional call, but showed that he had attached personal feelings to the case.
Masuku argued that Downer and the NPA were involved in a “constitutional scandal that should horrify any prosecutor” and allowing him to continue with the case would amount to feeding his personal power drive at the expense of violating the Constitution.
In response, Trengove accused the Zuma team of distorting facts. He said their arguments were “a rerun of old complaints that have failed in the past”.
“There is nothing new,” Trengove told the court.
Speaking outside the court, the spokesperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation, Mzwanele Manyi, said the NPA’s attempt to have Zuma’s medical record handed to the court was justice against a conniving NPA.
He said the arguments in court showed that the NPA was engaged in behind-the-scenes attempts to ensure that, by hook or crook, it got Zuma’s medical records.
Manyi also said that, according to information from doctors treating Zuma, they can’t give him the green light yet to come to court.
The matter will resume today at 11am to allow Trengove to finish his arguments on behalf of the NPA.