NPA rejects Zuma doctors' reasons for missing deadline to hand over report on fitness to stand trial

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Former president Jacob Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma.
Phill Magakoe/ Pool/AFP
  • Former President Jacob Zuma remains in hospital after undergoing an undisclosed surgical procedure last week. 
  • Zuma's military doctors were due to file a report on whether he would be fit trial for Arms Deal-linked corruption on 20 August, but have asked for another week to compile it.  The NPA has not agreed to this request.
  • Brigadier-General Dr Mcebisi Zukile Mdutywa of the South African Military Health Service has previously told the Pietermaritzburg High Court that the former president's life was at "significant risk" and it would take six months to treat him. 

Former President Jacob Zuma’s military doctors have failed to meet a 20 August court deadline to hand over their report on his fitness to stand trial for corruption – and the state has rejected their reasons for doing so.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga confirmed to News24 that Zuma's doctors had asked to file their report on his state of health and its implications for his trial on 27 August. But he has now said that the state "did not agree to this".

"We also reject their reasons for not filing their report," he said, before adding that this dispute would be need to be addressed by presiding Judge Piet Koen.

Zuma's medical report is expected to be confidential, as it will specify details about his health.

Zuma's advocate Dali Mpofu previously stated during the previous virtual hearing of Zuma's corruption case that it would only be after the former president's doctors had compiled their report on his health that his lawyers would make a decision on whether to seek a longer postponement of his trial. 

If such a postponement is sought, Zuma's doctors – as well as the doctors appointed by the State to examine the former President – will be expected to testify and be cross-examined.  

Asked by News24 whether the doctors appointed by the NPA to examine Zuma had been able to do so yet, Mhaga initially responded: "Not yet, that will happen after we receive their (the Zuma doctors') report." He later corrected this statements and stressed that Zuma's examination by NPA-appointed doctors was "not dependent" on the report by Zuma's doctors being finalised.

The former President was hospitalised two weeks ago while serving a 15-month jail term for defying a Constitutional Court ruling that he appear before the State Capture Inquiry.

The apex court has yet to rule on Zuma's application for a rescission of that judgment, after asking the parties in the case to make submissions on the implications of international law on its majority decision to jail him. 

Meanwhile, Zuma's lawyers were scheduled to begin arguing his application for a "special plea", in which he contends that the entire NPA is too biased to try him for corruption and he should be acquitted of all the charges against him earlier this month. That application was put on hold as a result of Zuma's largely undisclosed health issues. 

The department of correctional services last week confirmed that Zuma "... underwent a surgical procedure on Saturday, 14 August 2021, with other procedures scheduled for the coming days". As a result, it said, it was "... unable to predict a discharge date as our priority at this stage is for Mr Zuma to be afforded the best care possible. 

"As inmates are placed in correctional centres involuntarily, the State has a total and inescapable responsibility and duty to care for them in a manner that does not violate or compromise their constitutional rights, which include access to health care," spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo added. 

READ HERE | Arms deal: No luck for Zuma as ANC tells him 'we can't help' after request for financial documents

Brigadier-General Dr Mcebisi Zukile Mdutywa of the South African Military Health Service has previously told the NPA and the department of correctional services that Zuma needed "... extensive emergency treatment", that would require at least six months of care. 

Mdutywa wrote to the NPA in KwaZulu-Natal to inform it that Zuma had been admitted to hospital "... as a result of his condition that that needed an extensive emergency procedure that has been delayed for 18 months due to compounding legal matters and recent incarceration and cannot be delayed any further as it carries a significant risk to his life. 

"The medical team is actively monitoring his progress and will inform you soon as to the prognosis and outcome thereof through a medical report," he said, in reference to the report that the SANDF will now provide to the High Court on 27 August. 

Mdutywa added: "We trust that the court processes will accommodate this urgent health programme such that we can be able to work swiftly to restore his health. The minimum proposed period of care is six months during which periodic reports will be communicated to advise on possible availability of any further engagements on your end."

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