Jacob Zuma too ill with ‘life-threatening medical emergency’, court hears

10 August 2021 - 11:13 By Tania Broughton

Former president Jacob Zuma and the Thales Group were back before the Pietermaritzburg high court on August 10 2021 for his plea hearing. The matter was heard virtually. Judge Piet Koen granted a postponement on medical grounds in the morning sitting.

Doctors treating former president Jacob Zuma have been given until August 20 to submit a detailed report on his medical condition.

In terms of an order granted by Pietermaritzburg high court Judge Piet Koen on Tuesday, a medical practitioner appointed by the state will be given access to Zuma to assess his  fitness to attend court and stand trial on corruption charges linked to the arms deal.

Zuma was expected to appear in court on Tuesday to argue his “special plea” in which he seeks to remove prosecutor Billy Downer and any other official from the National Prosecuting Authority from prosecuting the case, accusing them of bias.

He is serving 15 months in jail in Estcourt for contempt of the Constitutional Court ruling that he present himself before the state capture inquiry.

The last time the matter was before Koen, Zuma appeared via video link from the prison while his legal team argued that he wanted to be present in court when the matter was argued.

Former president Jacob Zuma is in an undisclosed hospital and is too ill to attend court. File photo.
Former president Jacob Zuma is in an undisclosed hospital and is too ill to attend court. File photo.
Image: Rogan Ward

Koen issued directives that the matter would proceed “face to face”.

However, on Friday Zuma was taken from prison to a nearby, undisclosed hospital.

Koen was advised he was too ill to attend court and the judge directed that a medical report be filed.

The report handed in said Zuma had suffered a traumatic injury in November last year. It had gone untreated because of his court appearances and incarceration and was now a life-threatening  “medical emergency” which could take up to six months to be dealt with.

In submissions before Koen on Tuesday during a virtual hearing, advocate Wim Trengove, for the state, said: “We are  completely in the dark as to the justification for the postponement regarding his condition. 

“The doctor’s letter does not identify the medical condition at all, and it’s hard to understand how this medical crisis has been dragging on for 18 months.”

Advocate Dali Mpofu, for Zuma, said he consulted with his client over the weekend and had met his doctor.

“We are all in the dark. He [Trengove] knows the exact medical condition is a matter of confidentiality. Did he expect the doctor to go into detail? We didn’t.”

He said Zuma’s medical condition had worsened since his incarceration.

The parties agreed to an order that a full medical report would be provided by August 20 and that a doctor appointed by the state would be given access to Zuma to assess him.

The matter was adjourned until September 9 and 10. However, before that date it was agreed Koen would be informed if Zuma was well enough to attend court and the “special plea” would be heard.

If not, and the state disputed his medical condition, doctors from both sides would appear in court, either in person or virtually to give evidence and be cross-examined.

The case against Zuma and his co-accused, French arms company Thales, first came before Koen in May this year.

Zuma is facing 16 counts of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering. Thales is facing four counts.

Among the allegations is that the former president received an annual kickback of R500,000 paid through his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, in exchange for shielding Thales from an investigation into the controversial arms deal.

TimesLIVE


subscribe