The state wants answers over former president Jacob Zuma’s hospital stay and now it looks like it’s bringing in its own doctors to get them.
Zuma’s plea to get state advocate Billy Downer kicked off his corruption case was meant to be heard in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.
But proceedings didn’t go ahead after Zuma’s legal team applied for yet another postponement – this time due to his current hospitalisation. The application was not opposed by the state, but advocate Wim Trengove – who is acting on its behalf in the special plea – indicated they wanted answers.
“We are at the moment completely in the dark as to the justification for the postponement and, more particularly, Mr Zuma’s condition,” he said.
On Friday, Zuma was transferred from Estcourt Correctional Services – where he is serving his 15-month contempt sentence – to hospital and he had as of today still not been discharged.
In support of his application for a postponement, Zuma’s legal team yesterday provided the court with a letter from military doctor Brigadier-General Mcebisi Zukile Mdutywa to prison authorities.
In it, Mdutywa indicated Zuma had a condition that needed “an extensive emergency procedure that has been delayed for 18 months due to legal matters and his recent incarceration and cannot be delayed any further as it carries a significant risk to life”.
Mdutywa said Zuma’s treatment could take at least six months. But Trengove yesterday pointed out the letter didn’t identify Zuma’ medical condition.
“This is a crisis which has dragged on for 18 months,” he said.
“We find it hard to understand how that suddenly transforms to an inability to stand trial.”
Trengove asked the court for an order allowing the state to appoint its own medical practitioner to examine Zuma “in the interests of justice”. The order was granted.
In the meantime, Zuma was given until the end of next week to provide a more comprehensive medical report and the case was postponed to next month.
“It’s a question of whether this is a stunt and he’s malingering, or whether it’s genuine,” legal expert advocate Paul Hoffman said yesterday.
“The state is not saying he is malingering but it’s clearly interested in getting its own objective medical experts in”.
But Dr Llewelyn Curlewis, law lecturer at the University of Pretoria, said there was “nothing strange” about the order.
“The judge wants to make an informed decision,” he said.
“Merely accepting the letter may be construed as only taking cognisance of the one side.”