The Pietermaritzburg High Court has issued a warrant of arrest for former president Jacob Zuma for his failure to appear before court in relation to the arms deal case.
The warrant has been stayed until May 6, the date on which the case is set to resume.
It was at the request of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) who are now taking a tough stance on Zuma’s continued failure to appear before court in the arms deal case that the court granted the warrant of arrest.
The NPA’s lead prosecutor, Advocate Billy Downer argued that it was a criminal offence that the accused, Zuma, was not availing himself to appear in court.
Downer said the sick note provided by the Zuma’s defence team raised more questions than answers “and proves nothing”.
He labelled the medical certificate provided as “hearsay evidence” that was not accepted by the state.
He urged the court to grant a warrant of arrest for Zuma but in the same breath requested that it be suspended for a period, potentially of 14 days, during which if the NPA was satisfied with the evidence regarding Zuma’s medical condition they would not execute the warrant of arrest.
Zuma’s lawyer Daniel Mantsha challenged this request, saying it was not uncommon that Zuma, at his advanced age, would experience health complications and asked the court to take these factors into consideration.
He said the NPA’s request showed differential treatment towards his client.
“Zuma has been appearing in court ever since he was charged but the NPA allowed the second accused in the matter, Thales, to often skip court.”
Mantsha said his client should be afforded the same treatment as Thales.
Having heard both augments, Judge Dhaya Pillay granted the arrest warrant, but stayed it until May 6, the date on which the case was set to resume, giving Zuma and his legal team enough time to provide a more substantial media certificate.
This is the second time Zuma has failed to appear before the court, citing ill health.
His foundation on Monday sent out a statement indicating that “the former president is currently in Cuba on medical reasons” and thanked his supporters who have stood by him.
Zuma is facing 16 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering relating to the arms deal. It is alleged that Zuma received 783 payments, totalling more than R4 million from his then financial adviser Schabir Shaik and his Nkobi group of companies between 1996 and 2005.
The court in October last year dismissed with costs the application for a permanent stay of prosecution.