When a sick note leads to an arrest warrant

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The Pietermaritzburg High Court this week issued a stayed arrest warrant for former president Jacob Zuma, after rejecting a One Military Hospital “sick note” as inadequate, because of its lack of detail, writes MedicalBrief. The presiding officer, Judge Dhaya Pillay, took issue with with altered dates, vague diagnosis and a non-existent doctor's practice number.

It should have been among the most irrelevant court appearances in the ongoing saga involving fraud and corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma, but, says a Daily Maverick report, his defence managed to turn a simple adjournment into an hour of debate over a “so-called medical certificate” bearing the stamp of the South African National Defence Forces One Military Hospital.

The report says what is best described as a case of poor planning by the defence team resulted in their client being issued with a warrant of arrest, which will be stayed until the next appearance on 6 May 2020 where a credible explanation is expected to be given.

Zuma was not present and the medical “sick note” his defence attorney Daniel Mantsha handed to the court provided Justice Dhaya Pillay and prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer SC with little reason to believe the validity of the certificate.

Downer, acting for the state, told the court that it was “extraordinarily uncollegial to leave unanswered pertinent invitations from the state, in good faith, to be able to assist the court with medical evidence to explain his absence from court today”. He called the note a “so-called medical certificate”, adding that there was no supporting evidence to add credibility.

“The state does not consent to its admission. It remains hearsay evidence, the witness is not before court, there is no evidential weight, it proves nothing; moreover, it raises many more questions than it answers. Who is the doctor, where does he come from, what is the so-called illness, why is it a layman’s diagnosis?

Another Daily Maverick report notes that Zuma was boasting about his good health six weeks ago, but “is now so ill that a form produced by his lawyers has him booked off sick from 6 January to 30 April.

The sick note, pictures of which have circulated on social media, is mysterious. It is stamped by One Military Hospital in Pretoria and appears to be signed by one Dr ZK Motene. It provides no information on the nature of Zuma’s illness, stating only: “Layman’s diagnosis: Medical condition”.

The Daily Maverick said it had previously confirmed via telephone that a Dr ZK Motene is employed by the Presidential Medical Unit at One Military Hospital. The doctor in question appears to be Dr Zakes Kagiso Motene, author of a memoir titled The Journey and also the founder and chair of Tsogo Afrika Investment Holdings. The report says attempts to contact Motene were unsuccessful.

Mantsha also defended the lack of detail on the document on the grounds that the health of a former president is a “matter of national security”.
The report says the Pietermaritzburg High Court is the second body in recent weeks to receive scant information on the health of Zuma. The Zondo Commission investigating State Capture has also been informed that the former president cannot attend proceedings due to a “serious medical condition” which has to be kept confidential.

One factor which is consistent is that Zuma told the Zondo Commission that he was receiving treatment from a military doctor, whom Judge Raymond Zondo was due to meet to be privately apprised of Zuma’s health status. No update has since been forthcoming on this meeting.

The Zondo commission was simultaneously informed that the reason Zuma could not attend inquiry proceedings from 27-31 January was that he would be receiving medical treatment overseas.

Full Daily Maverick report

Full Daily Maverick report

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