South African court issues arrest warrant against former president Zuma in graft trial

JOHANNESBURG: A South African court issued an arrest warrant against former President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday, after he skipped the court for needing medical treatment, but the judge suspended the order until his corruption trial resumes on May 6.

Zuma's lawyer presented the judge with a sickness note of what he said was a military hospital, but the judge questioned whether the note was valid, since there was no medical number to show if the doctor was certified and where he was.

I don't even know if ... he's a doctor. There is ... nothing to suggest it is, he said, before issuing the order.

The former leader is being tried on 18 counts of fraud, organized crime and money laundering in connection with a $ 2 billion gun deal with French defense firm Thales in 1999, when Zuma was vice president. Reject the accusations as a politically motivated witch hunt.

Dan Mantsha, Zuma's lawyer, said he was abroad to receive medical treatment, without saying where. Local media have suggested that it is in Cuba, although it was not possible to verify it immediately.

Pillay concluded that the note was insufficient to apologize to Zuma for appearing at the trial, but he gave it until he resumes on May 6 to appear before the order takes effect.

Zuma, president of 2009-2018, had previously requested a permanent suspension of the prosecution, but the Pietermaritzburg court dismissed his appeal in November.

He is accused of accepting 500,000 rand ($ 34,000) annually from Thales in 1999, in exchange for protecting the company from an investigation into the agreement.

Thales, known as Thompson-CSF at the time, said he was not aware of any transgression of any of his employees in relation to the award of contracts.

They initially filed charges against Zuma a decade ago, but left them aside shortly before successfully running for president in 2009. After appeals and lobbying of opposition parties, the NPA reinstated the charges in March 2018.

Pillay also accepted on Tuesday a request from the company to be represented by a lawyer, who defended Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend in 2013.