Former president Jacob Zuma’s defense team was “upbeat” and claimed “victory” after proceedings on the first day of his special plea hearing in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday.

Jacob Zuma Foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi told the media that while he had not touched base with Zuma after court, he believed that the former president was happy about what transpired in court. “I am sure he watched the proceedings on TV at some point and is happy.

“We are upbeat because we claimed victory by ensuring that the state did not derail the special plea hearing by bringing medical experts and demanding that the medical reports be handed in. For what? It’s all part of their shenanigans.

“The medical reports were not needed at this stage because we are not asking for a postponement,” Manyi said.

The court heard that Zuma could not be present in court because his Gauteng-based doctors advised that he remain close to them.

However, the state subpoenaed medical experts and the national correctional services commissioner, Arthur Fraser, who had him granted medical parole, to give evidence on Zuma’s medical reports. They asked that the medical reports be handed in.

The state said that the National Prosecuting Authority’s doctors found that Zuma was fit to stand trial while Zuma’s doctors said the former president was not.

After fierce argument from Zuma’s lawyer Adv Dali Mpofu and state advocate Wim Trengove, judge Piet Koen said the matter of the medical records would be dealt with later and ordered the start of the special plea hearing.

Zuma is pursuing a special plea, which is calling for the removal of lead prosecutor Adv Billy Downer.  He believes that if his application to remove Downer is successful, he should be acquitted.

Mpofu told the court that Zuma believed that his right to a fair trial would be jeopardized as Downer was not impartial. He said Downer was a witness against Zuma when the DA called for a review after the NPA did not want to pursue charges against the former president. This was proof that Downer was driven by a political motive and was not impartial, Mpofu said.

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