The Pietermaritzburg high court has granted former President Jacob Zuma a postponement of his corruption trial until 31 May 2022.
Zuma sought the postponement after making a “special plea” to Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) President Mandisa Maya for a review of his unsuccessful appeal to remove state prosecutor Billy Downer from the trial.
The trial was due to start on Monday (11 April), but the ex-President’s lawyers argued that it could not proceed until Judge Maya has made a determination on Zuma’s special plea.
The state opposed the mooted postponement, arguing that it was yet another tactic to delay the trial. However, Judge Piet Koen ruled that he had no discretion and had to grant the request.
Koen also said he could find that the postponement application amounted to an abuse of court processes, adding that there was not enough evidence of “Stalingrad” delay tactics on the part of the former President.
Furthermore, Zuma’s special plea had effectively suspended the dismissal by the SCA of his appeal to remove Downer. In terms of the law, there was thus no basis for refusing the postponement bid, Koen ruled. He set 17 May as a holding date pending the outcome of the special plea and 31 May as the date for resuming the trial.
Zuma did not attend court proceedings on Monday. According to his legal representative Advocate Dali Mpofu, this was because of an unforeseen “medical emergency,” which he nevertheless did not disclose.
The former President’s spokesperson, Mzwanele Manyi, also made the announcement to a media contingent before proceedings got underway. “From yesterday, there was a health issue with the [former] President and we thought that we wake up today, all will be resolved,” he explained.
“But as things stand right now, the doctor has advised that it is not advisable for him to be here. There is a protocol issue around the medical issues. They are still sorting that out so that we can get finality.”
Manyi later informed News24 that Zuma was subsequently admitted to an undisclosed hospital. “He can talk and walk, but his condition required that he be admitted to hospital,” he said.
Zuma and French company Thales are facing fraud and corruption charges relating to their alleged roles in the infamous arms deal of the late 1990s.
The ex-President has launched multiple unsuccessful applications to stop the trial from proceeding. On Sunday, he vowed to launch private prosecution against Billy Downer for allegedly leaking confidential documents.