The Pietermaritzburg High Court issued an arrest warrant for former president Jacob Zuma on Tuesday, after he skipped court on grounds of needing medical treatment, but High Court Judge Dhaya Pillay stayed the warrant until his corruption trial resumes on 6 May.
Zuma’s lawyer Daniel Mantsha presented the judge with a sick note from what he said was a military hospital, but the judge questioned whether the note was valid or even written by a doctor.
Earlier Senior state prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer told the Pietermaritzburg High Court that the State was seeking a warrant of arrest for the former state president.
Downer made the request because Zuma had not submitted a medical certificate nor let the State know what the alleged illness was that kept him from proceedings on Tuesday.
Downer said the State had been made aware of the former president’s absence from Tuesday’s hearing in good time, but follow-up correspondence to his lawyer Daniel Mantsha regarding a medical certificate and the nature of Zuma’s illness had received no response.
Downer said the warrant could be issued but the actual arrest left pending until the court had undertaken an investigation into Zuma’s absence.
“Zuma’s absence is disappointing; we want Mr Mantsha to tell us what the illness is and why Zuma can’t be here. It is a criminal offence for the accused not to be present if he has been warned in court. The court would have to enquire into reasons for his absence,” said Downer.
He asked that the warrant be issued at the end of Tuesday’s proceedings. Downer also said that if Zuma chose to speak of his illness in closed proceedings, the state would not object.
Mantsha countered that Zuma’s illness was a matter of “state security” and the purvey of military doctors.
Zuma was also not able to appear before a sitting of the commission of inquiry into state capture last year because of illness. He has been seeking treatment outside the country.
The matter continues.