A South African court issued an arrest warrant for former president Jacob Zuma, after he skipped court on grounds of medical treatment, but the judge stayed the warrant until his corruption trial resumes on May 6.
Zuma’s lawyer presented the judge with a sick note from what he said was a military hospital, but Judge Dhaya Pillay questioned whether the note was valid, as there was no medical number showing if and where the doctor was certified.
“I don’t even know if he is a doctor. There is nothing to suggest he is,” she said, before issuing the warrant.
The former leader is on trial on 18 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a $2 billion arms deal with French defence firm Thales in 1999, when Zuma was deputy president. He rejects the allegations as a politically motivated witch-hunt.
Dan Mantsha, Zuma’s lawyer, said he was abroad for medical treatment, without saying where. Local media suggested Cuba, although it was not immediately possible to verify this.
Pillay concluded the note was insufficient to excuse Zuma from appearing for the trial, but gave him until it resumes on May 6 to turn up before the warrant is executed.
Zuma, president from 2009-2018, previously applied for permanent stay of prosecution but the Pietermaritzburg court dismissed his appeal in November.
He is accused of accepting R500 000 annually from Thales in 1999, in exchange for protecting the company from investigation.
Thales, known as Thompson-CSF at the time, said it had no knowledge of transgressions by any of its employees in relation to the contracts.
The National Prosecuting Authority initially filed charges against Zuma a decade ago, but set them aside shortly before he successfully ran for president in 2009. Following appeals and lobbying by opposition parties, the NPA reinstated the charges in March 2018.
Pillay accepted an application by the company to be represented by lawyer Barry Roux, who defended Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius over the 2013 murder of his girlfriend.