JOHANNESBURG. — Former President Jacob Zuma’s trial on charges of corruption has been postponed until September after a brief court appearance at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday.
A warrant for his arrest that was issued in February after Zuma failed to show up to court was also cancelled by Judge Kate Pillay.
Pillay adjourned the matter involving the controversial arms deal between Zuma and French-based arms manufacturer Thales, but wouldn’t entertain a request by the defence for the matter to be postponed beyond October due to Covid-19 constraining their ability to compile their case.
The first order of business in court was the outstanding arrest warrant attached to Zuma, issued after he failed to appear in court in February while allegedly receiving medical treatment in Cuba.
The widely scrutinised doctor’s note he submitted to explain his absence was not disputed by the court and the warrant was cancelled. Zuma’s defence advocate Muzi Sikhakhane said that Zuma had actually “risked his life” to attend court.
State prosecutor Billy Downer also requested that the matter be struck off the role for 2020 due to the fact that they were held back from compiling their case during the nationwide lockdown. There’s more than a hint of irony in this unusual role-reversal, with the state having consistently berated Zuma’s defence council for trying to delay the course of justice in the matter.
Downer cited the quarantining of his forensic team for a period of 14 days as having contributed to the delay in their ability to prepare. Sikhakhane said that the request was ridiculous.
“I have had to read 3 000 to 4 000 pages of documentation to accommodate a state prosecutor who has said more than seven times that the state is ready to proceed, but now he wants to change the timetable,” he said.
Pillay denied the request and provisionally set the matter down for resumption on 8 September 2020.
Zuma was in a typically amicable mood before entering the court room, waving at the crowd that appeared outside the court to support the former President. — thesouthafrican.