'I have never feared prison,' Jacob Zuma tells supporters on return from Cuba

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published Feb 23, 2020

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Former president Jacob Zuma landed at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and declared that he did not fear standing trial for fraud and corruption and even go to jail if convicted.

Zuma had been receiving treatment in Cuba and missed his appearance at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg earlier this month, prompting Judge Dhaya Pillay to issue an arrest warrant.

Briefly addressing his supporters at the international arrivals terminal, in Zulu on Saturday, Zuma said he could not run away from the court and say he is unwell.

“I have never feared prison. When I am required to attend my court case I am always present. Even under the apartheid regime I attended and they convicted me and I spent 10 years in jail and came out handsome,” he said.

Zuma added that even now, if the ANC government convicted and jailed him, he would go to prison and serve his sentence.

He said he was still meeting his lawyers because they did not know whether or not he was ill.

“Before the judge spoke about my medical certificate, the matter was also discussed elsewhere. I’ve taken a decision that my health is important. It is important that I allow doctors to treat me,” he told the boisterous crowd.

“Even those who are waiting for me in courts and elsewhere must find me in good health. I don’t see any problem with that.”

He said he found out about the arrest warrant from ANC Ekurhuleni chairperson and mayor Mzwandile Masina, who was very angry when he called and told him that a warrant of arrest had been issued by Judge Pillay but had stayed until his next court appearance on May 6.

Supporters welcome former president Jacob Zuma who returned to South Africa after receiving medical treatment in Cuba. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

“Masina told me I was too old to be arrested and that they should be the ones arrested and that they must leave you alone,” Zuma said.

He thanked his supporters for taking action when they saw that there was something wrong being done.

Masina sparked outrage on social media platforms when he offered to be arrested on Zuma’s behalf earlier this month.

The former ANC Youth League national task team convener earlier explained that his call was based on the ubuntu principle that a person who is not well cannot be arrested.

Masina called President Cyril Ramaphosa to meet Zuma to discuss his ill-health.

“I believe that our president will have a moment with Zuma on humanitarian grounds so that they can have discussions,” he said.

Masina explained that he used to go with Zuma to see Nelson Mandela when he was not well.

“I believe that those who are leading the ANC must do the same because Zuma is also not well,” he added.

Masina denied that their support for Zuma was based on ANC factional infighting.

“We are going to speak about this matter until the ANC takes over this issue, that is why I am here as an elected leader, as membership of the ANC to say people must not look at this issue as an issue of factions or people who seek to divide the ANC,” he said.

According to Masina, ANC leaders who support Zuma must not come across as people who want or seek to divide the governing party.

“We understand it is (the ANC’s)democratic processes. We understand what democracy has produced, we will not betray those things but also we are not going to sit back and watch our father being persecuted by the judiciary,” he said defiantly.

Masina said Zuma was not sure whether or not to address his supporters gathered at the airport, but he told him that there were ANC members who back him who will be disappointed if he is whisked away by his security.

Zuma’s “welcome home” gathering was attended by some of his high-profile staunch supporters in the ANC including his former Cabinet minister and members of the party’s powerful national executive committee Mosebenzi Zwane, Joe Maswanganyi and Bongani Bongo, who is also facing corruption charges.

Former North West premier and former ANC provincial chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, the governing party’s Free State provincial chairperson Sam Mashinini, uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association leader Kebby Maphatsoe and ANCYL Free State provincial secretary Reagan Booysen, introduced as the league’s representative, were also present.

Political Bureau

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