South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma was admitted to hospital on Friday, less than a week before he is due in court for a separate graft trial.
The Department of Correctional Services said “former president Jacob Zuma has today, 6 August 2021, been admitted to an outside hospital for medical observation.”
No reason was given for the hospitalisation on Friday, apart from that it was prompted by “a routine observation”.
Zuma, 79, is scheduled to attend the resumption of a long-running corruption trial on August 10, 2021.
The hearing will include a plea to drop 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering against him related to the 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and equipment from five European arms firms when he was deputy president.
He is accused of taking bribes from one of the firms, French defence giant Thales, which has been charged with corruption and money laundering.
Proceedings have been repeatedly postponed for more than a decade, sparking accusations of delaying tactics.
In a separate case, controversial Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison by the country’s Constitutional Court in June. He was found guilty of contempt of court.
Zuma defied the court’s order to appear at a corruption inquiry when he was still in power between 2009 and 2018.
“The constitutional court can do nothing but conclude that Mr Zuma is guilty of the crime of contempt of court,” said Judge Sisi Khampepe.
He started serving the sentence on July 8 at Estcourt prison, in the east of the country.
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Zuma’s legal team had used a range of reasons to turn down invitations to testify, including alleged bias, preparations for the graft trial and medical concerns.
His imprisonment sparked a spree of violence and looting in his home KwaZulu-Natal province and the financial capital Johannesburg.
The unrest in July left 337 people dead, the government said on July 22.
Widespread looting and burning of businesses broke out, a day after Zuma began serving his jail term.
The violence escalated into the worst unrest since the end of apartheid, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to label it an attempted “insurrection”.
Violence spread through Zuma’s home province KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the two most populous provinces, which together account for half of South Africa’s economic output.
Several thousand more are being held for looting and arson.
The scale of the destruction and loss of life, which was fuelled by poverty and inequality that have persisted for almost three decades since the end of apartheid in 1994, is still becoming clear.
Authorities have managed to bring the violence under control, but the economic cost is estimated at over Ksh.141 billion (US$1.36bn) in KwaZulu-Natal alone, as 161 shopping malls, 11 warehouses and eight factories were extensively damaged.
Zuma was on July 22 allowed to briefly leave jail in the south-eastern town of Estcourt to attend the funeral of his brother Michael, who died from an illness several days after the ex-president was put behind bars.