/ 10 August 2021

Military doctor says Zuma’s life is at risk

Safrica Corruption Politics Zuma
Former president Jacob Zuma. (EMMANUEL CROSET/AFP via Getty Images)

Former president Jacob Zuma suffered an injury last year that requires emergency treatment to save his life, according to a certificate from a military doctor filed to the Pietermaritzburg high court in support of an application for a postponement in his arms deal corruption trial.

The certificate, signed by Brigadier General MZ Mdutywa, states that Zuma’s various legal processes and recent imprisonment for contempt of court delayed the needed, unnamed treatment, but that a further delay was not possible.

It was attached to an application for a two-week postponement of the arms deal trial that was being heard by Judge Piet Koen on Tuesday.

The state has agreed not to oppose the application for a brief delay, but Zuma’s legal team has indicated that it could seek a lengthier postponement, based on further medical advice.  

Koen granted a month-long postponement, but directed that Zuma file a medical certificate by no later than 20 August. He further ordered that the state may appoint a doctor of its choice to examine Zuma and testify as to his fitness to stand trial.

The former president has been in hospital since Friday.

“He is undergoing extensive medical evaluation and care as a result of his condition that needed an extensive emergency procedure that has been delayed for 18 months due to compounding legal matters and recent incarceration and cannot be delayed any further as it carries a significant risk to his life,” Mdutywa wrote.

“The medical team is actively monitoring his progress and will inform you soon as to the prognosis and outcome thereof through a medical report.”

He added that he hoped the court processes would accommodate urgent care to restore Zuma’s health.

“The minimum proposed period of care is six months during which periodic reports will be communicated to advise on possible availability of any further engagements on your end.”

Zuma was jailed last month to serve a 15-month sentence for contempt of a Constitutional Court order that he appear before the Zondo commission to answer to allegations implicating him in state capture.

His legal team has applied to have the sentence rescinded, arguing that his constitutional right to a fair trial was violated. The Zondo commission, the applicant in the matter, countered that Zuma elected not to raise a defence, instead repeatedly issuing statements attacking the integrity of the judiciary.

Last week, the Constitutional Court issued a directive to the parties to make submissions as to whether, in ruling on the rescission application, it was compelled to consider the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights when construing sections 12(1)(b) and 35(3) of the constitution.

Zuma’s lawyers have until Friday to file their submission, and the commission until 18 August.