Shots fired both ways – Zuma’s non-appearance in court

Whilst Zuma’s sick note was being handed up in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, Twitter feeds were filled with pictures depicting Zuma firing away with his rifle at his home in Nkandla on the 4th of February 2020. His attorney, Daniel Mantsha (“Mantsha”), appeared on his behalf to hand Zuma’s alleged sick note to Judge Dhaya Pillay. Mantsha informed the court that it would not be fair to expect Zuma to attend court whilst he was ill and further that issuing a warrant for his arrest would be “spiteful and vindictive”. Judge Pillay however, shot back at Mantsha by saying that she would be consistent with “what society expected of her”. This came after Zuma’s sick note was rejected by a Senior State Prosecutor, Advocate Billy Downer. Judge Pillay, therefore, made the decision to issue a warrant for Zuma’s arrest but stayed the warrant of arrest until May 6, 2020.

Many citizens are under the impression that because the warrant was issued, it has in fact been affected. This however, is not the case. The warrant has only been issued by Judge Pillay and it will only come into effect should Zuma decide on another non-appearance at court on 6 May 2020. Staying a warrant of arrest means that that warrant will only come into effect once the stay date has passed, not that it has immediate effect from the date of issue. Further to this, the reason Judge Pillay chose to stay Zuma’s warrant for arrest was to afford him one final opportunity to come to court to face his charges for racketeering, bribery and corruption, money laundering and fraud, out of his own volition. In doing so this also ensures his court appearance to some extent on the 6th of May 2020, as the consequence for his non-appearance will then be arrest.

Despite this, Zuma’s son, Edward stated to Times Live on 5 February 2020, that the mere issuance of the warrant for his father’s arrest was a reflection of the fact that Zuma would “not get any fair treatment in any level of the judiciary”.  However, he did not take into account the fact that Judge Pillay could have chosen to not stay the warrant of arrest and thus not awarded Zuma with an opportunity to come to court of his own volition. Judge Pillay has placed the ball in Zuma’s court and we await to see whether there will be a warrant out for his arrest, or if he will decide to appear. Thus, should Zuma not return to court on 6 May 2020 due to another “illness”, he would be merely shooting himself in the foot.

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