If he does go and is not back by 15 February – a date he has been summoned to appear before Judge Raymond Zondo – he could find himself in hot water, a legal expert said.
That was the question on Sunday after suggestions on social media that former president Jacob Zuma is headed for Moscow for “medical treatment” in much the same way as he went to Cuba last year when the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture was eager to hear his testimony.
If he does go and is not back by 15 February – a date he has been summoned to appear before Judge Raymond Zondo – he could find himself in hot water, a legal expert said on Sunday.
Commenting on weekend social media reports that Zuma planned taking a trip to Russia for medical reasons, Accountability Now director advocate Paul Hoffman said there would be no basis to prevent him from travelling “unless the travel takes place at a time that is in conflict with his appearance at the commission”.
“He will not be able to travel, unless it is an emergency visit to Russia – during a period or on a date in which he is expected to appear before the commission, taking into account the summons,” said Hoffman.
“Remember, Jacob Zuma is not an accused person in a criminal trial, but just a witness in a commission of inquiry. His travel to Russia is his own business and a right to privacy, because he is not an accused person.”
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said: “Zuma will have to inform the commission about his travelling arrangements. He cannot go to Russia without informing Zondo, because he will appear as someone unwilling to cooperate.”
A Zuma family member dismissed as false reports of the former head of state’s medical travel to Russia by Ally Mosina, who claims to be the Zuma Foundation spokesperson – but it has aroused interest on social media after Mosina tweeted about the trip.
“The former president has nothing to hide. However, his health comes first, especially now at his age,” he said.
Mosina dismissed public perception that Zuma’s state of health suggested avoiding appearing before Zondo, after a Constitutional Court ruling compelled him to do so.
Zuma’s son Edward has distanced the family from Mosina’s claims about the Russian trip.
“The Jacob Zuma Foundation and family wish to distance itself from the person calling himself a spokesperson. We wish to state that it’s mischievous and disrespectful to South Africans,” said Edward.
Last week, the Constitutional Court ordered that the former president abide by a summons to appear before Zondo to give evidence, following allegations about his alleged involvement in state capture.
The timing of Zuma’s ill-health – coinciding with commission or court appearances – has been subject of legal scrutiny, with him having travelled to Cuba in 2019.
A doctor’s note, presented by his lawyers last February to a high court, was deemed to be insufficient proof of Zuma being indisposed.
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