Zuma's lawyers say he is being treated abroad, Parliament apologises for SONA error

2020-02-12 16:50
Former president Jacob Zuma. (File photo: Michele Spatari, Pool, AFP)

Former president Jacob Zuma. (File photo: Michele Spatari, Pool, AFP)

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Former president Jacob Zuma's attorneys and his foundation have cleared the air over his mooted attendance at this year's State of the Nation Address, stating emphatically that he is overseas and will not be attending.

However, they remained mum on where he was.

Parliament and the South African government's official Twitter accounts on Wednesday tweeted "confirmation" that Zuma will join former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe as guests at SONA on Thursday evening.

In a bizarre sequence of events, Parliament then backtracked on the tweet, saying Zuma's attendance was still being verified. An update from Parliament was expected later on Thursday.

However, Zuma's lawyers stated that they have noted the statement attributed to Parliament, in which it was claimed that Zuma would attend SONA.

"We do not know how and where Parliament obtained this incorrect information," read the statement from Lugisani Mantsha Attorneys Inc.

"Our instructions remain that president Zuma is currently receiving medical treatment in a foreign country and will therefore not be attending the SONA."

The statement didn't provide any details on which foreign country Zuma is receiving medical attention in, and for which condition.

The JG Zuma Foundation also confirmed that the corruption-accused former president will not attend SONA.

"This serves to confirm that Former President of RSA, HE [His Excellency] JG Zuma received an invitation to attend SONA on the 13th of February 2020, which is appreciated," read the statement.

"The former state president will however not be able to attend the SONA due to his health condition. The Director General in the Presidency as a proper communication channel has been informed in this regard."

"We hope and trust that the above will give clarity to the media reports and speculations that arose earlier today."

READ MORE | Zuma says NPA abuse of power reminiscent of apartheid - report

It is customary for Parliament to invite former presidents, deputy presidents and presiding officers to SONA. Zuma has not attended any of the three SONAs Ramaphosa delivered, the first of which was days after Zuma resigned as president in February 2018.

Zuma's recent whereabouts and state of health has been a topic of much public interest in recent days. This after Judge Dhaya Pillay of the High Court in Pietermaritzburg last week issued a warrant of arrest for Zuma after he failed to turn up for his court case, citing health concerns.

The judge was not convinced by a sick note signed by a military doctor and presented by his defence attorney. The warrant was stayed until May, when Zuma was expected to appear in court.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  politics

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