Supporters a no-show as Jacob Zuma Arms Deal hearing gets underway
Durban - For the first time since 2005 when former President Jacob Zuma made his first high-profile court appearance in Durban, there was no buzz inside and outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday.
Zuma is charged with corruption and money laundering after he was accused of benefiting from the Arms Deal in the late 1990s. He is accused of getting bribes from convicted Durban fraudster.
The money allegedly came from a French arms company, Thales. Thales is also appearing in court.
This time, with Zuma not in court due to ill health and reportedly getting treatment in Cuba, his supporters were not bussed to court to offer moral support inside and outside court.
However, some prominent members of the Zuma family were seen in court before the anticipated hearing started. Among them was Thobani Zuma, the former deputy mayor of Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg), who has always been on the side of the ex-president since his troubles with the law started.
Thobani said he was not aware that other prominent members of the family were coming to court.
The public gallery, which is usually packed with Zuma’s loyalists and family members every time he appears in court, was almost empty. Only one unidentified woman in an ANC doek was seated with journalists.
Across the Pietermaritzburg High Court, Freedom Park, which is usually a hive of activity with Zuma supporters, was deserted.
Speaking from his home in Durban, one of Zuma's key backers Nkosentsha Shezi of RET Champions said the reason why there were no supporters in court was because Zuma will not attend the hearing.
“Nothing was organised for supporters as the President (Zuma) is not coming. We bus supporters mainly to show support to him if he is in court. Since he will not be there, supporters are not coming,” Shezi said.
Security-wise, only a few police officers were seen inside and outside court and only the normal court security measures were put in place with people coming in going through a scanner.
Shortly before the start of the hearing, one of Zuma’s legal eagles, Advocate Dan Mantsha, walked in and when he was asked what people should expect today. He jokingly said “normal court stuff.”