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As the clock ticks, Zuma’s fate divides South Africa


THE 15-month prison term imposed on former South African President Jacob Zuma has divided the country. 

On the eve of what was supposed to be his last day as a free man, his supporters gathered in their hundreds and vowed that he will not be imprisoned and the Defend Our Democracy (DOD) movement, by more than 50 civil society organisations, held a rally in support of the Constitutional Court decision imposed ruling must be upheld.

Zuma has been granted a chance by the Constitutional Court to make his case to stay out of jail.

There were colourful scenes outside Zuma’s home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal where hundreds of his supporters, led by the Amabutho, the traditional regiments danced and sang in support of Zuma.

The former president was seen in public for the first time since Constitutional Court Judge Sisi Khampepe handed down the watershed conviction and sentence as he interacted with some of his supporters. 

The ANC cancelled its national executive committee meeting scheduled for this weekend and dispatched senior leaders to KwaZulu-Natal to diffuse tensions that many fear could lead to civil disobedience. Senior ANC leaders, led by provincial leader and Premier Sihle Zikalala met with Zuma.

Zikalala acknowledged that Zuma’s sentence has torn the province apart and emphasised that his leadership wanted a peaceful solution. “We don’t want a situation that will lead to violence,” he said.

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The supporters who have gathered in Nkandla have made it clear that they will oppose the imprisonment of Zuma with everything. Some have even threatened violence.

Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule arrived at Zuma’s home yesterday to support Zuma. “I’ve always supported him,” Magashule said as he was whisked away by security.

At the virtual DOD rally, leading members of the South African civil society spoke in support of the Constitution and the judiciary.

Speaker after speaker called for the South Africans to rise in defence of the constitution. The speakers also called veteran freedom fighters to stand up for the rule of law and urged those who support Zuma to do so within the confines of the law. 

In his opening address at the DOD virtual rally, Reverend Frank Chikane emphasised that  the rally was not called to celebrate Zum going to jail – a development he described as tragic – but to defend SA constitutional democracy.

Chikane said the DOD recognised and respected the right of Zuma’s supporters to back him and to express themselves.  He however warned that those who support the former president must do so within the constitution and the law. “They will end up in jail. We don’t want them in jail,” he said.

Solly Mapaila, the SA Communist Party deputy general secretary called on the leadership of the ANC to speak up against the use of Umkhonto we Sizwe to start a campaign of disobedience and even start violence. 

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Some of the speakers at the rally, chaired by veteran political activist Murphy Morobe, included political veteran Ella Gandhi, Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, South African Council of Churches secretary-general Bishop Mpumlwana, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, the Council for the Advancement of South African Constitution and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.

By The African Mirror