Zuma has plenty of support ahead of Friday’s court appearance
As the rest of the country is mourning the death of anti-apartheid stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ANC and its alliance partners in KwaZulu-Natal are busy tearing themselves apart over former president Jacob Zuma’s court appearance on Friday.
Zuma is expected to make a first appearance in the Durban High Court on 16 charges of fraud, corruption and money-laundering. His lawyers are involved in last-ditch efforts to compel the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to postpone the case until Zuma’s application for the review of the NPA decision to reinstate charges against him is heard.
Police said they will deploy in numbers as potential for chaos exists. Thousands of pro-Zuma supporters — including church leaders, musicians, students, women's organisations and youths — are expected to come out in force, with some hard-liners threatening to bring Durban to a "standstill" in show of solidarity with Zuma.
Those in his corner say they have whipped up a ground swell of support for Zuma‚ and have funded the hiring of more than 100 buses to ferry his loyalists from Durban and the surrounding areas to the cordoned-off areas just beyond the courtroom.
Two marches‚ a night vigil and a support rally have been planned for the 24 hours leading up to Zuma’s court appearance. There‚ a conglomerate of church leaders say they will also hold the "mother of all prayers" for divine protection of the man they have dubbed the "father of radical economic transformation".
In the run-up to the court appearance‚ a group of business forums with the moniker RET Champions embarked on a fundraising campaign to bankroll the logistics behind Zuma’s support network. These structures include the National Funeral Practitioners Association of SA (Nafupa SA)‚ who courted controversy earlier this year with a call for white- and Indian-owned funeral parlours to cease their operations in townships.
We are preparing for the night vigil and the march. We are fundraising to take care of the logistics around public support for him
Spokesperson Nkosentsha Shezi said that they were unable to attach a value to the money raised for Zuma‚ but they were shaping up to have thousands there to support him. "We already have enough to fund 100 buses to go around Durban and the province to fetch his supporters. I cannot give you figures but we have everything. We are preparing for the night vigil and the march. We are fundraising to take care of the logistics around public support for him."
Another cog in the RET Champions machine is the controversial Delangokubona Business Forum, which has often been accused of threatening construction bosses in an effort to get a share of contract work‚ halting work on multi-billion-rand projects around the province.
There is a similar but separate body calling themselves the RET Defenders‚ although their provenance is unknown.
The National Interfaith Council of SA (Nicsa) and the Commission for Religious Affairs (CRA) have continued to put their faith in Zuma‚ saying he was targeted because "he ensured the foundation for the implementation of the radical socio-economic transformation".
In a statement issued on Wednesday‚ the religious groups thanked Zuma for his dedication to the fight for freedom. This is happening while there are palpable divisions within the ANC and its alliance structures on what to do when Zuma’s case commences.
The first salvo was thrown by the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal Youth League, which said it will defy the party’s national executive committee (NEC). It said that while ANC members are free to support Zuma during his court appearance in their individual capacity, they must not do so in party colours.
Over the Easter weekend, Police Minister Bheki Cele told ANC supporters in the province that the NEC will not tolerate those who defy its ruling. Cele, who is a senior member of the NEC, was quoted as saying: "Nobody owns the ANC. If you commit crimes you must face the charges without calling the ANC to defend you, as if when you were stealing you were doing it for the ANC, while you were stealing for yourself and your children."
Former president Jacob Zuma will face 16 charges in the Durban High Court. Here’s what you need to know. Video: Anthony Molyneaux
Pro-Zuma supporters lashed out at the former police commissioner, with some accusing him of harbouring bitterness for having been fired by Zuma. The former president’s controversial son, Edward, wrote a scathing letter against Cele and other ANC leaders, saying he would defy them and wear ANC colours when he attends his father’s court case.
"I wish to take this opportunity and assist my leader comrade Bheki Cele by putting things into perspective. Firstly‚ the Zuma family‚ we did not mobilise any support nor are we in the business of such. It is people of SA who correctly believe that they need to support the former president Jacob Zuma as it’s clear that the witch-hunt against JZ is being intensified from all corners and levels," he said.
ANC alliance partners the South African Communist Party (SACP) and union federation Cosatu said they had noted the bickering ahead of the Zuma court case. SACP KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Themba Mthembu said it supports the NEC decision to bar party members from wearing ANC T-shirts during the court case.
"We all need to respect and abide by the NEC decision. Now that these charges have been resuscitated we hope it will not be used to settle political scores but will be handled in a dignified manner that would allow the former president to state his case and clear his name," Mthembu said.
Cosatu’s provincial secretary Edwin Mkhize said the union had not discussed Zuma’s court appearance. "As Cosatu in the province, we have not had an opportunity to discuss this matter, so we have not yet taken a position. Neither has any of our structures informed us they will or will not attend the case. Once we have taken a position on this matter, we will announce it."
Mbali Frazer, spokesperson for the ANC Women’s League in KwaZulu-Natal said it had decided to abide by the NEC decision not to mobilise. "Those who want to go to the case can do so in their individual capacity. But we have received information that many women will attend the court case. As the leadership, we cannot prevent them from going there to support the former president of the ANC."