The high court in Pietermaritzburg has issued a warrant of arrest for former president Jacob Zuma, after he failed to appear in court for his corruption trial on Tuesday.
Judge Dhaya Pillay said the court was not provided with sufficient evidence that Zuma was indeed ill.
“Without that evidence, the court cannot do anything else but issue a warrant of arrest,” she said.
Pillay, however, stayed the warrant until May 6 when the trial will resume and Zuma is required once again to appear in court.
Zuma is facing corruption, fraud and racketeering charges relating to the multi-billion rand arms deal.
He stands accused of receiving multiple bribes and gifts from his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, in exchange for his interventions and assistance with Shaik’s business interests. It is the state’s case that Shaik facilitated a R500,000/year bribe for Zuma from French arms company Thales in exchange for the former president’s “political protection” from any investigation into the deal.
Before his expected appearance in court on Tuesday, Zuma’s lawyers had indicated that he would be unable to attend the hearing as he was receiving medical treatment overseas.
KwaZulu-Natal director of public prosecutions Elaine Zungu had requested copies of any medical evidence they intended to submit to court to justify his absence.
Zuma’s lawyer, Dan Mantsha, did submit a document to Pillay, however, the judge had questions about it.
She said the document titled “medical confidential” and marked as a pharmacy copy had a military hospital stamp, but no date and section B of the report had an abbreviation “HCP”, which Mantsha could not explain.
The sick leave date on the form had been altered but had not been initiated and it was not clear that the person who signed the document was a medical doctor, Pillay said.
“The court accepts that Mr Zuma might be unwell, there is nothing to suggest that he is or is not,” she said.
“In this regard what goes out in the public domain, in the media and what is exchanged by council is not evidence.
What this court requires is evidence. Some authentic, reliable, proof that Mr Zuma is indeed ill and when he will be available to stand trial.”