05 Feb 2020
AP — A judge in South Africa issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for former president Jacob Zuma for failing to appear in court on a corruption case that he has sought to avoid for months — now by asserting that he is ill.
The National Prosecuting Authority requested the warrant, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported. It does not come into effect until the case resumes on May 6.
Reports have said Zuma is in Cuba seeking treatment. The NPA requested Zuma’s medical records as evidence of his claim, the state broadcaster reported.
State advocate Billy Downer told the Pietermaritzburg High Court that Zuma’s team has said he will be out of the country for treatment until mid-March, local media reported. Zuma’s legal team asserted that he had two operations in early January before going abroad. But the judge questioned a letter from a military hospital in the capital, Pretoria, explaining Zuma’s absence, noting it had no date.
Zuma’s lawyer Daniel Mantsha told the state broadcaster they were not happy with the arrest warrant. “That is sending a wrong message that our courts have no sympathy, no compassion, and that is not something that should be celebrated,” he said.
Zuma’s medical team, including the military and doctors abroad, will determine his fitness to appear before the court in May, Mantsha said.
It was not clear when the former president would return from Cuba. According to South Africa’s justice ministry, the two countries have negotiated but not signed an extradition agreement.
The 77-year-old Zuma, whose past court appearances were marked by defiant speeches and singing and dancing for crowds of supporters, has faded into the background as his legal challenges to the corruption charges have faltered.
A court late last year dismissed Zuma’s attempt to appeal a ruling that cleared the way for him to be prosecuted. He is accused of receiving bribes from French arms manufacturer Thales through his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who was convicted of fraud and corruption in 2005.
By Cara Anna and Mogomotsi Magome, AP, 4 February 2020
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