Durban - The sudden hospitalisation of former president Jacob Zuma has put another spanner in the works over his appearance before the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
Zuma’s lawyers will now file an application to urge the High Court to postpone the hearing until he is fit to appear in court in person.
Last week Zuma scored a victory in the same court when presiding Judge Piet Koen ruled that the hearing, where the former ANC leader wants 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 was opposed to that, arguing that his 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 is constitutionally mandated to be in court when a matter involving him is heard.
Judge Koen gave in and allowed Zuma and his legal team to be in court, setting the stage for Zuma supporters to vow that they would be outside the High Court to demand his release from Estcourt prison in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
However, things started to change on Friday morning when the Department of Correctional Services announced that Zuma had been hospitalised to undergo a routine medical check-up by military health services.
It was hoped that the check-up would be a quick one and Zuma would be back in Estcourt and get ready to make the trek to Pietermaritzburg. It turned out that would not be the case, as by Monday afternoon all parties concerned, the NPA and Zuma’s lawyers, argued that Tuesday’s sitting would be about seeking a postponement.
Through the spokesperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation, Mzwanele Manyi, Zuma’s legal team confirmed that it would seek a postponement.
“The NPA on behalf of all the parties sent a joint letter to the Honourable Judge Koen reflecting the parties’ agreement to postpone the hearing at the Pietermaritzburg High Court due to the ongoing hospitalisation of president Zuma. On August 10 at 10am the matter will be heard virtually for postponement,” Manyi said.
The spokesperson of the NPA, Mthunzi Mhaga, confirmed that the matter would be virtual and it would be about a postponement.
“I can confirm that tomorrow Mr Zuma's legal team will make a substantive application for a postponement virtually. It's unfortunate that there will be a postponement as our team is ready to argue the special plea as planned but these are circumstances beyond our control," Mhaga said.
The Department of Correctional Services, through its spokesperson, Singabakho Nxumalo, said they are not sure when Zuma would be released from the external hospital where his medical check-up is being conducted.
“The former president, Mr Jacob Zuma is still in hospital. We do not know when he is likely to be discharged,” Nxumalo said.
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.
Shezi also did not rule out having people camping outside the court today as the announcement of a virtual hearing came very late.
“As I am speaking right now (Monday afternoon) there are people from other provinces heading to Pietermaritzburg to support Msholozi (Zuma) and we were also ready to go to court to support him when he appears in court in person. Our support was significant after the court ruled that the matter should be heard with all parties in court,” Shezi said.