Jacob Zuma’s supporters vow to swarm Pietermaritzburg High Court to demand his release from jail
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Durban - Supporters of former president Jacob Zuma have vowed to come out in large numbers and gather at the Pietermaritzburg High Court to demand his release.
Their insistence came on Wednesday, as the Jacob Zuma Foundation pleaded with the police and other security forces to work in harmony with the supporters, to ensure that there is no confrontation outside the court.
On Tuesday next week, Zuma will – for the second time – temporarily leave his Estcourt Correctional Centre cell, where he is serving his 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court, and travel to the Pietermaritzburg High Court, on August 10, to join his lawyers.
The lawyers are arguing that the NPA’s advocate Billy Downer SC should not lead his prosecution for corruption, as he is legally and politically compromised, because he allegedly acted in a legally and politically compromising manner, thus rendering himself unfit to give the former head of state a fair trial.
In opposing the in-person hearing, the NPA argued that Zuma’s presence in court could pose security risks and other challenges, as his supporters would come and gather outside the court.
However, Judge Piet Koen on Wednesday ruled that all parties should come to court instead of having a virtual hearing, which Zuma and his lawyers argued was prejudicial to him.
In an interview with Independent Media, after Zuma scored a victory over the NPA, the foundation’s spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi said they hope sanity will prevail on all sides outside court, where the police and the army are expected to come out in full force to maintain order.
Manyi said, although their focus, as the foundation, would always be inside the courtroom, they cannot ignore what would transpire outside the court. As such, Manyi said, since the country’s Constitution guarantees the right to a peaceful protest, they hope there would be no challenges.
“We also call on the organisers of the protest to manage the protest in a manner that is consistent with the laws of the country. Moreover, we call on the police to work with the organisers of the protest and not to provoke the protesters. In fact, we would like to ask our police to speak to their British counterparts, and ask them for tips on how to handle large protests, without lives being lost or having bloodshed,” Manyi said.
On Wednesday Zuma supporters said they would be outside the court in full force. Other than circulating faceless posters, some supporters of Zuma, under the banner of RET (Radical Economic Transformation) and the Free Jacob Zuma campaign, from across the country, issued a statement and came out in the open.
The supporters said, after President Cyril Ramaphosa failed to meet their ultimatum to free Zuma, they have no choice but to take the battle outside the court.
“Under the circumstances, the #FreeJacobZuma campaign will now embark on further peaceful and lawful protest action. In all of these actions, and the intensification of the campaign for the immediate release of president Zuma, the need for Radical Economic Transformation (RET) will be inseparable and fundamental. The resultant campaigns and protest actions that we will embark on will, at all times, be peaceful and within the confines of the law. Our immediate response and protest action, will be on Tuesday, August 10, in Pietermaritzburg, when president Zuma is due to appear again in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, for the fatally flawed and compromised, so-called ‘arms-deal’ trial.
“The #FreeJacobZuma campaign is mobilising for a strong presence and message to be delivered, that president Zuma must be released forthwith, and that the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) demands, contained in our petition to President Ramaphosa, must be addressed immediately. Under all circumstances, this mobilisation, to give further prominence to our demands, will be peaceful and lawful. It will also reflect the broad mass-based support for the campaign. This will be followed by further peaceful and lawful protest action, that will ultimately culminate in community-based rolling mass action throughout the country,” the supporters said in a statement, jointly signed by 18 prominent supporters – like Carl Niehaus, Andile Lungisa and Phapano Phasha.
In response to Wednesday’s court ruling, NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said: “We respect the court ruling and are ready for the hearing.”
It was not yet clear by Wednesday whether Zuma would be brought into court by prison warders or by his own presidential protection unit bodyguards, who are believed to be guarding his cell inside prison.
Singabakho Nxumalo, the spokesperson for the Department of Correctional Services, could not be drawn to comment on the matter, as he said they had made their inputs – as asked by the court – when adjourning the matter on July 15.