Jacob Zuma to miss start of Arms Deal trial, cites illness
Durban - Former President Jacob Zuma might not appear in the Pietermaritzburg High Court this week for the beginning of his arms deal-related trial, due to ill health.
This was indicated by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Saturday.
Zuma, who had approached the Supreme Court of Appeal in another attempt to escape prosecution, was scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.
His supporters were also expected to pack Freedom Square in front of the court.
NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke confirmed Zuma’s court appearance arrangements to Independent Media.
“But whether it will in reality, is up in the air at the moment. Mr Zuma, th(r)ough his lawyers, indicated that he is not well and will (be) receiving medical attention at the time he is expected to appear.
“The court is seized with this challenge between the State and defence,” said Makeke, without giving further details.
Zuma’s spokesperson Vukile Mathabela did not respond to questions about Zuma’s state of readiness for the trial.
Zuma’s lawyer Dan Mantsha’s phone was unanswered on Saturday.
His supporters said they were ready to travel to Pietermaritzburg to support Zuma. However, unlike in his previous court appearances, spokesperson for his supporters Nkosentsha Shezi said there would be no night vigil on Monday evening.
“On Monday we will issue a pamphlet (informing supporters about transport arrangements), and on Tuesday morning people will be in Pietermaritzburg,” said Shezi.
Independent legal expert advocate Mbulelo Mneno said Zuma had a right not to appear in court or at the commission if he was not feeling well.
“He has to produce a medical certificate to the effect that he is not well. That certificate should explain the nature sickness and how long is he expected to recover.
“In terms of his right, if he is not well, how can he appear before court to articulate his position or defence?” said Mneno.
The case against Zuma dates back to the early 2000s when the now defunct Scorpions investigated him for his role in the multibillion-rand arms deal in which he allegedly received a bribe from French arms manufacturer Thales, which is his co-accused. Zuma was never charged along with his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who was sentenced to a 15-year jail term in 2005 for arms deal fraud and corruption crimes.
The case had died down after former NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe found that the charges had political meddling as a result of the revelation of the “spy tapes”.
However the charges against Zuma were reinstated in 2018 by former NPA boss Shaun Abrahams, who was confident there were “reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution”.
This followed a court judgment that the charges be reinstated.
Despite Zuma repeatedly calling for his day in court, he had repeatedly tried to squash the charges against him
Late last year, judges Jerome Mnguni, Esther Steyn and Thoba Poyo-Dlwati dismissed Zuma and Thales’s applications to approach the Supreme Court of Appeal to appeal against their decision to dismiss the application for a permanent stay of prosecution.
Nevertheless, in January they both directly approached the Supreme Court of Appeal to listen to their appeal against the three high court judges.
In a replying affidavit to Zuma’s appeal papers, deputy director of public prosecutor advocate Billy Downer said Zuma had no tangible evidence to prove that years of delay in prosecuting him had resulted into an unfair trial against him.
“There is nothing in Mr Zuma’s affidavit in support of the present application, which comes close to meeting this highest standard,” wrote Downer.