It’s still a good hour till sunrise, but I’m already wide awake and melting, desperately trying to catch up on the drama sparked by former president Jacob Zuma’s failure to appear in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Tuesday.
I’ve been on the back foot since the court took exception to the sick certificate describing Zuma’s medical condition as a “medical condition” and issued a warrant for his
arrest, which it has stayed until he next appears in court, pending a proper explanation from his legal team.
Like everybody else, I had expected the court to be brought up to speed on the former head of state’s latest series of appeals and adjourn to another holding date while the challenges to the ruling that Zuma can’t have a permanent stay of prosecution play themselves out. And like the rest of the country, I was shocked and surprised, to borrow a phrase from the current head of state, Cyril Ramaphosa, by the actions of the court.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been.
Zuma’s legal team have, since the corruption case against him was reopened, spent a fair amount of their time playing hard ball against the prosecution team, accusing them of prosecutorial malfeasance; bias and of being part of a plot against Nxamalala. During the failed application for a permanent stay of prosecution last year, they were particularly vicious, painting the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as a willing participant in a political vendetta against uBaba.
So, should it be so surprising then that Billy Downer and his team chose to return the compliment in court on Tuesday, essentially accusing Zuma’s lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, of coming to court with a forged sick note and putting him — and his credibility — on the spot?
It appears that Judge Dhaya Pillay has also had enough of team Zuma diving in the box, given that she granted Downer’s request for the arrest warrant to be issued, and finally whipped out the yellow card.
Pillay’s message to Zuma, channelling his inner Fidel Castro — all Adidas track top and military fatigues while watching, with glee, Donald Trump beating the rap on Fox News — is clear: stop taking the piss, Baba.
The old man can, obviously, go for medical treatment anywhere he wants, even if he is out on bail, be it Havana, Moscow, Dubai. I would have thought, however, that as a tired and tested what what — sorry that should have read, tried and tested what what — of the former liberation movement, and as a former head of state, Zuma would have stuck around and gone for treatment at home. Shown some faith in the legacy he has left us, and all that.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize can’t be too pleased either.
Think about it.
Poor Khabazela is busy running around the country preaching National Health Insurance (NHI), trying to convince the general populace that state health care is up to scratch and will improve under the NHI. Instead of endorsing this, Zuma, Khabazela’s former lahnee, under whose leadership the whole NHI thing started to really gain momentum, the whole father of the NHI as it were, promptly fucks off to Cuba for medical treatment the minute he gets a headache or a runny tummy.
Not exactly a vote of confidence in Mkhize, or our health services, or the ANC, or the government of the republic for that matter, on the part of Nxamalala.
Perhaps the former head of state knows something the rest of us don’t about the ability — or lack thereof — of our health services to treat him, hence his decision to seek treatment in Cuba.
I wonder when the bookies are going to start taking bets on Zuma coming back for his May 6 court appearance, and what odds they are offering?
Perhaps they’ll only start giving odds when all the legal toing and froing is over and the trial proper gets going.
May 6 will just be another holding date, given Zuma’s intention to go to the Supreme Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling by the high court that he can’t have a permanent stay of prosecution. If that appeal fails, he will undoubtedly appeal the failure of the appeal, so expect another 18 months or so before the appealing of appeals is over and the matter actually goes to trial.
If our man does a runner, it will be then, just after an actual trial date is set, not now, with Dubai a far more likely hideout than Havana. For now, there’s still plenty of time left to run the clock down before the inevitable happens.
Perhaps Zuma will be well enough to appear in court on May 6.
Perhaps the old man will send Mantsha back to court with another sick note, this time in Spanish, causing another three-month delay while the department of justice finds a translator.