By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Former president Jacob Zuma’s special-plea hearing to remove the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) prosecutor, Billy Downer, from the arms deal corruption trial has been postponed and will heard on 21-22 September.
Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Piet Koen postponed the case on Thursday morning during a virtual hearing after the NPA and Zuma’s lawyers reached an agreement.
"The order I grant is as follows: the matter is adjourned in the absence of the first accused [Zuma] and the representative of the second accused [Thales] to 10:00 hours on 21 and 22 September 2021 in open court in Pietermaritzburg," Koen said.
The trial was postponed so that a state-appointed medical team of specialists – in cooperation with Zuma’s medical team – could consider his medical evidence on his fitness to stand trial.
Zuma has been unable to attend the trial due to his admission to a military hospital since August for an undisclosed medical illness.
Koen said if Zuma applied for a further postponement, he would need to file an application with the “necessary evidence on both sides being led”.
Zuma’s lawyer, advocate Dali Mpofu, told the court there seemed to be progress on the dispute over the medical assessment of Zuma by the NPA’s appointed doctors.
"There was an indication which was made to you [ Judge Koen] that the medical teams are finding each other or getting close to each other," he said.
The former president and Thales are on trial over the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal. Zuma is facing multiple counts including fraud‚ corruption, money laundering and racketeering. Thales, which is accused of bribing Zuma, faces four counts.