The warrant of arrest issued for former president Jacob Zuma has been cancelled by Judge Kate Pillay in the Pietermaritzburg High Court following the submission of yet another doctor’s letter confirming his ill-health as the reason why he failed to show up in court in February.
The warrant was stayed until 6 May when the matter was set to resume and the court accepted that Zuma “may well be ill”, but added that further evidence on his condition was required.
This meant that the warrant was not immediately executable, and was contingent on Zuma providing adequate clarity on his condition, which has now been done.
National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) advocate Billy Downer said although the state felt the initial letter was insufficient, the new note does not appear problematic.
Tuesday’s proceedings dealt with the matter of setting a trial date in connection with the multibillion-rand arms deal pending the readiness of both parties.
Zuma and his co-accused, French government-controlled Thales arms company, are facing a total of 16 charges including fraud and racketeering.
Judge Pillay questioned why the matter should not be postponed to August.
According to the judge, it would be in the interest of justice for the case to start and end as soon as possible given Zuma’s advanced age.
She then asked the state if they were ready to proceed with the trial and the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) advocate Billy Downer, senior council confirmed that despite needing some time to get their ducks in the row, the state would be ready no matter what date was set.
This is contrary to the state’s previous request to have the trial postponed to 2021.
Advocate Sikhakhanee then tore into the NPA accusing them of shifting the blame to Zuma’s legal team after previously saying they were ready to proceed with the trial.
He also registered his legal team’s concern with what they call the improper communication between the NPA and Kwa-Zulu Natal Judge President Achmat Jappie.
However, Sikakhane confirmed that the team is yet to receive instruction from Zuma on how to handle it.
The advocate then made reference to former KZN high court acting Judge President Mjabuliseni Isaac Madondo and how the team was happy to deal with him during proceedings before reiterating that Zuma is of the belief that there was inappropriate correspondence between KwaZulu-Natal judge president Achmat Jappie and the NPA regarding his criminal proceedings.
Sikhakhane added that his client was of the belief that the Jappie and Downer specifically discussed changing the indictment.
The advocate then claimed that Downer told him that he didn’t want another “Judge Msimang situation” in reference to former KZN judge president Herbert Qedusizi Msimang who died in 2011 at the age of 60.
Commonly referred to as “The Zuma Judge,” Msimang made headlines and got people talking back in 2006 when he struck the high-profile fraud case of then ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma off the roll. In his judgment, he sternly criticised the NPA for how it handled the matter.
Following Sikhakhane’s representations, advocate Barry Roux, on behalf of Thales, spoke briefly before Judge Pillay made her ruling.
“My ruling is we adjourn this matter to a date in early September,” said Judge Pillay.
This is in the hopes of having a trial date set at that matter after having sufficient time to prepare.
The judge expressed her concern over Zuma’s ability to attend the court date given his ill-health.
All parties agreed to return on 8 September with a note from Thales’ representation on the uncertainty with regards to international travel due to lockdown.