South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma, has responded in combative style after he was slapped with an arrest warrant for failing to appear for a pre-trial hearing on corruption charges.
A day after his lawyers said he was unable to attend the proceedings because he was ill, Zuma posted a tweet showing himself with a rifle, aiming through a telescopic sight and with his finger on the trigger.
Zuma, who was in power from 2009 to 2018, faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering related to the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment from the time when he was deputy president.
On Tuesday, the High Court in the southeastern city of Pietermaritzburg issued an arrest warrant after it questioned the authenticity of the sick note said to have been signed by a doctor from a military hospital.
“The court accepts that Mr Zuma may be unwell,” said judge Dhaya Pillay. “But this court needs reliable evidence that Mr Zuma is indeed ill.”
“It is not clear that (the doctor) is indeed a regular practitioner,” she said.
Those who have hailed the warrant decision include the main opposition Democratic Alliance, among the many critics of a man nicknamed the “Teflon President” for his perceived ability to evade justice.
Zuma’s supporters reacted angrily.
“Hands off,” one of his sons, Edward Zuma, said in a statement.
“They’ve tried nailing him, they can’t find anything. Can they just leave the man alone to enjoy his pension.”
Interviewed by the news channel eNCA about his father’s tweet, he denied that the gun was a symbol of defiance about the arrest warrant — “it is purely for birds,” he said, adding that the picture was taken two years ago.
Zuma was forced to step down in 2018 by the ANC as mounting corruption allegations and dwindling popularity swamped his presidency.
The secretary-general of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Ace Magashule, retweeted the rifle photo along with the lyrics of an apartheid-era struggle song which translate as “The fight of soldiers, the fight of guerrillas.”
The warrant is “a travesty of justice,” added Zuma supporter Bathabile Dlamini, who heads the ANC’s influential Women’s League. The sick note which triggered the arrest warrant “would have been effortless to verify.”
The doctor whose name is on the note, Z.K. Motene, is a registered South African doctor, according to the physicians’ official website, and according to a source in the president’s office “has been Zuma’s doctor for a long time.”