- The corruption trial of former president Jacob Zuma kicked off on Monday, with a smaller than usual crowd outside court.
- Ace Magashule and Supra Mahumapelo were among those who came out in support of Zuma.
- Magashule said Zuma was an ANC president and had to be supported.
While the usual signature large crowds did not turn up for what is meant to be the first day of former president Jacob Zuma's Arms Deal corruption trial, journalists scrambled to interview many of his high profile supporters including Ace Magashule and Supra Mahumapelo.
A street outside Pietermartizburg High Court was cordoned off with a strong police presence maintaining calm prior to the case commencing. While there were some supporters outside court, the usual big crowd that Zuma commands was not present.
While Magashule made his way to court, a barrage of journalists chased him in the hope of catching a few words from the suspended ANC secretary-general.
"Zuma was the president of the ANC. He must be supported at all times. As ANC leaders, that's how we were brought up in the ANC," he told a group of journalists as he entered court.
When asked about the ANC's instruction to him to disassociate from those charged with fraud and corruption, Magashule answered: "I am here to support president Zuma."
Also among Zuma's high profile supporters was Supra Mahumapelo, who was suspended by the North West ANC interim provincial committee.
He called for Zuma to be allowed to live out the rest of his years in peace, saying the former president had done important work for South Africa's liberation.
"We must find it in our hearts to allow Zuma to go gradually into a dignified obscurity to accept that those of us who wanted to inflict pain on him before and after democracy, have achieved our objective.
"To accept that the fact that his reputation has been sufficiently harmed, and for me, it is payment enough for society to allow him at this stage in his life to go gradually into necessary obscurity so society can go into a different narrative going forward."
He highlighted Zuma's contribution to South Africa's liberation struggle.
"He lost his youth and adulthood for the revolution, he never had time with his family and never enjoyed his time as a revolutionary. As an activist he was targeted and persecuted by the system."
Nkosentsha Shezi, KZN chairperson of the RET (Radical Economic Transformation) team, said the beginning of the trial was "one of the saddest days in the history of the country".
"We have to come to court to give support to Zuma, a man who dedicated his entire life to the liberation and freedom of this country.
"RET forces are here and we will be with him through thick and thin. We are expecting people to come, but we have to adhere to Covid-19 protocols. The support that president Zuma is getting today is greater than any other time."
WATCH: A small group of @PresJGZuma supporters are outside the PMB High Court. An RET coordinator source says these supporters come of their own volition. While buses were ready to transport supporters yesterday, leadership decided against it. @News24 @TeamNews24 #Zumatrial pic.twitter.com/eCknqzcFUB— Kaveel Singh (@kaveels) May 17, 2021