Former President Jacob Zuma will return to the country on Saturday from Cuba where he has been receiving medical treatment.  He failed to appear in court earlier this month due to ill health but the Pietermaritzburg High Court disregarded his sick note and issued a stayed warrant for his arrest if he fails to pitch for his next court appearance on 6 May.

The Gauteng Radical Economic Transformation Support Group for Zuma will be welcoming him at the OR Tambo International Airport on the Gauteng East Rand. The group’s Carl Niehaus says the warrant of arrest was unnecessary.

“We will gather at OR International Airport to welcome him back and also to express a strong objection to that warrant of arrest that had been issued and the manner in which [former] President Zuma has been treated and we see this warrant of arrest as a final straw of this situation where the [former] President is consistently being vilified, it wasn’t necessary to issue that warrant of arrest. [Former] President Zuma is no flight risk, He’s an elderly statesman. He has respected our courts throughout the 15 years that he had to appear in court, this was the first time that he was not able to attend,” says Niehaus.

Legal expert Ulrich Roux says Zuma may be off the hook at least for now but if he appears in court in May, he will have to prove beyond doubt that he is indeed ill.

“One could expect Jacob Zuma’s legal representatives to say, if he is really ill and receiving treatment, for the doctor to depose what is happening and tell us what he is suffering from and where he was receiving treatment and why he didn’t attend the court proceedings. And if they use that affidavit it should be sufficient enough to be used in court so it can cancel the warrant so that the matter can proceed. Should it not be okay with the affidavit, the court can exercise its right to call the doctor,” says Roux.

Meanwhile, the African National Congress (ANC) has thrown its weight behind the former president, saying he is a law-abiding citizen and will continue to be supported.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal says the court’s decision to reject Zuma’s sick note was irrational and inconsiderate to the health of the former president.

Free State ANC Youth League Spokesperson Sello Pietersen says they will defend Zuma to the bitter end.

WATCH | ANC in KZN and Free State express dismay over Zuma’s arrest warrant: