On Thursday, three days before former president Jacob Zuma hands himself over to the police to start his 15-month jail term, his disgruntled supporters came out in their numbers in a show of force for the embattled leader.
Beyond blatantly breaching the lockdown regulations under level 4, Zuma’s supporters also fired live ammunition in the air as they drove in a motorcade from the small town of Eshowe to his rural homestead of Nkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Chants of war cries reverberated in the rural setting, accompanied by singing and dancing as the bumper-to-bumper motorcade of more than 100 vehicles slowly made its way from Eshowe, the oldest town settled by Europeans in Zululand to Nkandla 45 minutes away.
Gunshots and songs dedicated to Zuma filled the air of the sparsely populated area.
Sekungcono basidubule (It’s better they just shoot us as well), sang the supporters. The violations of Covid-19 regulations and the Fire Arms Controls Act continued in full view of the SA Police Services (SAPS) stationed outside Zuma’s home.
The four police officers in a lone SAPS van watched on as some supporters in the crowd of more than 400 repeatedly fired their guns while others walked around without wearing face masks. There was no social distancing either.
The entrance to Zuma’s sprawling homestead was a hive of activity, with some supporters keen to address the media. They wanted to state their reasons for being there, while others sang and danced.
The more entrepreneurial ones took advantage of the situation, setting up stalls where ANC branded regalia was being sold. What was clear from this show of force was that while the Constitutional Court found Zuma in contempt of court, his supporters will not let him go to jail on Sunday without putting up a fight.
eThekwini ANC councillor Ntando Khuzwayo, who is also a staunch backer of embattled former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, told City Press outside the homestead that Tuesday’s Constitutional Court judgment was a “grave injustice” to Zuma.
He said this was why Zuma’s supporters were breaching the Covid-19 level 4 regulations which prohibits gatherings, to show their disapproval of the court’s “errant finding”.
“We no longer have any faith in the courts and the justice system. So we will be here at this gate defending Zuma and stopping him even if he wants to subject himself to that court order. We are saying Zuma shouldn’t go to jail,” Khuzwayo said.
“He will not make it out of jail alive. With his [health] condition [for which he has sought medical attention in Cuba and his advanced age] how is he expected to receive this medical attention if he has to go to jail? Once you are under the correctional system, they give you a doctor that cares for the rest of the prisoners,” said Khuzwayo.
It remains unclear whether Zuma is in Nkandla, or still consulting his legal team and allies in Johannesburg.
In a statement earlier, the Jacob Zuma Foundation denounced the Constitutional Court judgment. However, Zuma’s new spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi, did not disclose the embattled former ANC president’s next move.