A judge in South Africa issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for former President Jacob Zuma for failing to appear in court on a corruption case that he has sought to avoid for months — now by asserting that he is ill.
The National Prosecuting Authority requested the warrant, the South African Broadcasting Corp. reported. It does not take effect until the case resumes on May 6.
Reports have said Zuma is in Cuba seeking treatment for a health issue. The NPA requested Zuma’s medical records as evidence of his claim, the state broadcaster reported.
Zuma, who held office from 2009 to 2018, faces charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a $2.5bn (£1.98bn) deal to buy European military hardware for South Africa’s armed forces in the late 1990s.
His legal team said the former president had two operations in early January before going abroad and his illness was a matter of “state security”.
Zuma, whose past court appearances have been marked by defiant speeches and singing and dancing for crowds of supporters, has faded into the background as his legal challenges to the corruption charges have faltered.
The 78-year-old denies the charges against him. He has alleged his case is prejudiced by lengthy delays in bringing the matter to trial and political interference.
Prosecutors threw out the charges nearly a decade ago in a contentious decision that opened the way for Zuma to become president. They returned to the case after his controversial presidency.
Zuma was ousted in 2018 after a bitter internal battle in the ruling African National Congress and amid public outrage over separate allegations of mismanagement and graft that severely affected state-owned companies.
In a public hearing before a judicial commission of inquiry, Zuma denied he had presided over an immense system of corruption and patronage that drained billions from the country’s exchequer, and told the inquiry he was the victim of a plot by foreign intelligence agencies to seek his downfall.
South Africa, the most developed country in sub-Saharan Africa, has continued to struggle to recover under Zuma’s successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has apologised for the past mismanagement and vowed reforms.
The scandals badly hurt the reputation of the ANC, which has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994
Source – Guardian