A sick note handed to Judge Dhaya Pillay during a sitting for former president Jacob Zuma's corruption trial in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court has emerged as the primary point of contention which led to a warrant of arrest being issued for him.
During proceedings on Tuesday, the former head of state's lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, attempted to convince Judge Pillay that the note, a sparse, ambiguous document, could justify Zuma's non-attendance in court.
"There is no reason to doubt the document with an original stamp, unless there is evidence for my lady to disregard it," he said.
Mantsha added Zuma's health was a "matter of national security".
"The doctor in charge of the former president is attached to the military. It is absurd for the State to doubt the admissibility of a medical note stamped by our own military official."
The note has since been circulated on various social media platforms.
However, Judge Pillay questioned key aspects of the note:
- The first was a seeming alteration to the date of January 6 on the document. "There is an alteration to the date in this document but there is no signature near it," Judge Pillay said.
- The second was the fact that there was no reference to Zuma's military physician's practice number. "There is a number here, but it is not labelled as a practice number at any point."
- Third, the term "layman's diagnosis with consent from the patient" - this was a phrase that Mantsha could not explain. "What does this mean?" Judge Pillay asked.
- Her final note was that Zuma's medical condition was not described in the letter, merely only saying "medical condition". "This tells us very little," Judge Pillay said.
Senior state advocate Billy Downer said he had tried to acquire medical information regarding Zuma's sickness before Tuesday's sitting.
"My lady, why are we swimming through mud now? Since January, we have asked for medical evidence and we received no responses from my Mr Zuma's team," he told the court.
Judge Pillay acceded to the State's request for an arrest warrant to be issued.
The warrant was stayed until May 6 - Zuma's next court appearance - which means it will not come into effect unless the former president skips that appearance too or does not give an adequate account for why he cannot appear in court.