Jacob Zuma's arrest warrant stayed until court appearance in May
PIETERMARITZBURG – The Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday stayed a warrant of arrest for Jacob Zuma until May 6, the date set down for continuation of pre-trial matters in the former president’s graft case, for which a trial date is yet to be set.
Zuma was not in court on Tuesday and was represented by his attorney, Daniel Mantsha, who told the court that Zuma’s health had prevented him from putting in an appearance.
Mantsha further told the court that the former president’s illness was a matter of “national security” and was the purview of military doctors.
Mantsha submitted what he said was a “medical certificate from a military hospital” but it was rejected by an senior State prosecutor, Advocate Billy Downer, who said that the note constituted “hearsay evidence”.
Judge Dhaya Pillay told Mantsha she could see that the certificate had been “altered”.
Mantsha told Pillay it would be unfair for the court to expect Zuma to appear before it while he was ill, while his co-accused, French arms manufacturer Thales, had on numerous times had a representative excused from appearing in court.
He said issuing a warrant of arrest would be “spiteful and vindictive and is an execution of Zuma”.
But the judge shot back, reminding Mantsha that it was the first time she was presiding over the matter, implying that she came to the proceedings with no baggage.
She told Mantsha she had to be “consistent” with what society expected of her, adding that on Monday she had to issue a warrant of arrest in an unrelated matter because the accused did not present a medical certificate to the court.
But this did not deter Mantsha.
He later said: “Mr Zuma is an elderly man, out of the country [for medical treatment]. To issue a warrant of arrest won’t be in the interests of justice. People will ask: What kind of courts are these, there is no sensitivity.”
The case relates to the multi-billion rand arms deal of the 1990s.
Zuma is accused number one and is facing one count of racketeering; two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud for allegedly receiving bribe money from Thales via his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik.
Thales is accused number two and is facing one count of racketeering; two counts of corruption and one count of money laundering.
It has been alleged that the money paid to Zuma via Shaik was for “political protection” to keep the deal from being probed.
Shaik was found guilty of two counts of corruption and one of fraud in 2005 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released on medical parole in 2009 after serving just over two years of his sentence.
Downer said the warrant against the former president would be left pending and he would then be asked to be asked, when he appears in court in May, why he did not attend court on Tuesday.
Downer said if Zuma failed to give a satisfactory explanation, he may be criminally charged for that.
If he were to argue that he was sick, he would have to produce evidence of that which may be viewed without compromising confidentiality.
The Democratic Alliance welcomed the court's decision to issue a warrant, with DA justice spokeswoman Glynnis Breytenbach saying it sent a signal that the court would not tolerate any attempts to evade accountability.
"The DA is pleased that the Court has put its foot down and shown Mr. Zuma that he can no longer continue wasting the court’s time and public resources because he is too afraid to face the music."African News Agency