Former Minister of Public Service and Administration Faith Muthambi and other supporters of former President Jacob Zuma at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday for his third appearance on charges of fraud and corruption. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN
Former Minister of Public Service and Administration Faith Muthambi and other supporters of former President Jacob Zuma at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday for his third appearance on charges of fraud and corruption. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN

THE newly-elected ANC leadership in KwaZulu-Natal says it takes strong exception to media reports that it is distancing itself from former President Jacob Zuma during his fraud and corruption charges.

The ANC in the province sharply criticised Business Day for a report in which it quoted the newly elected chair, Sihle Zikalala, speaking to radio station SAFM on Monday morning, in which he said the ANC needed to discuss the approach on supporting Zuma with the party’s national executive committee (NEC).

Zuma returns to the dock on Friday in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg to face graft charges, with a brand new legal team.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal says its supporters and members are free to support the former president, provided that they do so in their individual capacity, do not wear ANC colours and do not use the occasion to swear at, or denounce, elected ANC leaders — as per a decision by the NEC.

Business Day ran a story which quoted Zikalala as saying that the KwaZulu-Natal ANC conference resolved that it supported the NEC resolution, which stated that the organisation must not support leaders facing criminal charges. He was quoted as saying that those members who wanted to support such leaders must do so in their individual capacity and must not use ANC structures or wear ANC colours.

In a statement, Mdumiseni Ntuli, KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial secretary, said the report twisted what Zikalala had said and implied that the new KwaZulu-Natal leadership was drifting away from Zuma.

"The conference noted that former president Jacob Zuma is not facing new charges, and the condition[s] he was initially charged for have not materially changed. The ANC continues to assert the inalienable right of all, including the former president, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty," Ntuli said.

In the SAFM interview, a podcast of which is posted on its website, Zikalala was asked whether a decision was taken at the KwaZulu-Natal conference to support Zuma.

His response was: "We are not saying that we must take that direction, but we are saying to the new leadership [that national] must discuss this issue because you find that a number of people just go to court, mobilise people to support former president Zuma, which is not an issue and a concern, but they opportunistically use that platform for their own interests.

"Supporting former president Zuma should not be against the ANC and all of us who go there have been emphasising that, but there are people who do not come from our structures of the ANC, and the ANC members who are there will not have authority over those people because they are not the organisers of those support events that are organised," Zikalala told SAFM.

He was then asked whether the ANC was referring to organisations such as Black First Land First (BLF), which has been a vocal supporter of Zuma during and after his court appearances.

Zikalala responded: "If all of those mass gatherings are controlled by the ANC you will not have [the BLF] and that’s what we are saying, the space the ANC has left but we are also in concurrence, we agree with the ANC leadership that it is not good for the ANC to support comrades when they are charged, because we are the ones who embraced the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

"We are also the ones who must advance the cause and fight corruption so we are saying these are issues that are contradictory and we need to discuss it internally and have a solution on that. We respect former president Zuma, he has the support of us as members but the issue must be discussed."

Attempts to speak to Zikalala to get clarity on the matter pertaining to Zuma’s support were unsuccessful on Thursday. Bongani Tembe, Zikalala’s spokesman, declined to comment on this matter, referring all enquiries to the KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial headquarters.