“Is Zuma’s poor health a Stalingrad strategy?”
A vague, single-page sick note submitted by former president Jacob Zuma’s lawyers to the Pietermaritzburg High Court has not only failed to excuse him from appearing personally as his graft case heads to trial but put him back in international news headlines.
The New York Times ran an Associated Press story reprising reports that Zuma has headed to Cuba for medical treatment after undergoing two operations in January. It noted that while Cuba and South Africa have negotiated an extradition treaty, it has not been inked yet.
On Tuesday, senior state prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for Zuma after tearing into the sick note submitted by the former president’s legal representatives.
It has captured the imagination more than any other court submission by Zuma’s lawyer to oppose the State’s attempts to have him answer charges of corruption stemming from an arms deal South Africa concluded in the late 1990s.
“Is Zuma’s poor health a Stalingrad strategy,” The Sowetan newspaper asked in a headline, noting that Downer appeared to have no doubt that it was.
The note was produced by military doctors but the court noted that it had been altered without the required adjoining signature.
On Tuesday, the court issued a warrant of arrest but left its execution pending until May 6, the next scheduled court date dealing with pre-trial matters.
The ANC issued a statement yesterday saying it respected the decision of the high court. The party offered support to the man who lead it until Cyril Ramaphosa became ANC president in December 2017.
“Former president Jacob Zuma is a law-abiding citizen who has consistently respected the courts and submitted himself to the judicial processes regardless of his stature,” the ANC said. “He has always co-operated with law enforcement agencies whenever asked to do so.”
“The ANC appeals to members of the public to exercise patience and allow former president Jacob Zuma and the courts to deal the matter when it resumes again.”