Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist


Zuma absent in court due to ill health, Mpofu argues for postponement

Judge Piet Koen adjourned the trial until 2pm to decide on whether to postpone the trial.


Former president Jacob Zuma on Monday morning was not present in the Pietermaritzburg High Court for the start of his arms deal corruption trial.

Zuma’s lawyer, Advocate Dali Mpofu, informed Judge Piet Koen that his client was absent in court due to a “medical emergency”.

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He said Zuma was under the care of the surgeon-general and had given an instruction for the case to go ahead without his presence in court.

“There was a medical emergency which took place in the past few hours and we have been liaising with the doctors and the situation is being attended to,” Mpofu said.

“We are assured we might get some kind of documentation later today,” he added.

Zuma and French arms manufacturer Thales, which allegedly bribed Zuma, are on trial over the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal.

The former president is facing 16 counts including fraud‚ corruption, money laundering and racketeering, while Thales faces four counts.

Postponement application

Earlier, Mpofu lodged an application for the corruption trial to be postponed to a later date, arguing two reasons before the high court.

The reasons related to Zuma’s “reconsideration application” at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and his bid to pursue the private prosecution of state prosecutor, Advocate Billy Downer.

The Jacob Zuma Foundation on Sunday announced that Zuma would pursue the private prosecution of Downer for allegedly leaking his confidential medical records to the media. 

This was after the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) decided not to prosecute Downer over the claims. 

The former president’s legal team is also awaiting the decision from SCA president Mandisa Maya on their reconsideration application, after the appeal court in March dismissed Zuma’s appeal to have Downer removed from leading the arms deal corruption trial.

Zuma had asked the court for the right to challenge Koen’s dismissal of his “special plea” application to recuse Downer from the trial, arguing that the prosecutor lacks independence.

‘Made up application’

Downer argued on Monday that Zuma’s reconsideration application was “just a made up application” that had absolutely no merits of success at the SCA.

“It just appears to be an attempt to put the application in the realm of exceptional circumstances, when really there are no such exceptional circumstances,” Downer said.

Mpofu argued that Downer’s description of Zuma’s reconsideration application as “a made up application” was an insult.

Downer also said the state would not support the trial being postponed indefinitely after Mpofu confirmed Zuma asked that the corruption trial be postponed indefinitely so that he could pursue his various mooted appeals.

Judge Koen said he was inclined to postpone the corruption trial to a later date in May due to Zuma’s reconsideration application, and not on the basis of Zuma’s mooted private prosecution of Downer.

Koen adjourned the trial until 2pm to decide on whether to postpone the trial.

“I will take the adjournment. I just want to reflect on the arguments and I’ll give my order, possibly with brief reasons but otherwise detailed reasons to follow later. I’ll do that at 2pm,” he said.

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