WATCH: Zuma ally and friend, Niehaus arrives at rally in support
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As the crowds of former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters make their way into People's Park in Durban, radical economic transformation (RET) and Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) forces said that they had come to show support for the veteran statesman at the prayer event on Thursday.
Former ANC member Carl Niehaus spoke to the media briefly amid the commotion, saying Zuma went to prison for pushing for RET.
"I am here as a comrade and friend of president Jacob Zuma. He has been treated unfairly. He was given a jail sentence without a proper trial. He has been specifically targeted because he has particular political view which does not gel with the leadership in the ANC.
“He has been pushing radical economic transformation, and that is the reason he went to jail," Niehaus said.
RET champion Nkosentsha Shezi said Zuma was one of the greatest leaders and had been unfairly attacked by the media and government officials.
Shezi said Zuma was a man from the working class who stood for the liberation of black people and was the hope for the oppressed.
"It is president Jacob Zuma who is standing up for a redress, for justice for the African natives. Therefore president Zuma has been tormented and there is nothing that hasn't been thrown at president Zuma.
"Even when the masses of people said they would not vote for the ANC, president Zuma has a clear message – that the ANC is the shield and spear of the oppressed. As much as people are angry with the ANC, our message is clear – you must go out and vote for the ANC," Shezi said.
With a scorcher of a day forecast in Durban and temperatures expected to reach the mid-30s, supporters have been filling up the arena since 9am on Thursday while the Jacob Zuma Foundation was putting the finishing touches to the stage.
Foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Myani said the event was to pray over Zuma, following his recent prison sentence and the "dark forces" that were trying to bring him down.
The 79-year-old former president has reportedly been in ill-health since his release from prison after being granted medical parole in September. He served two months of a 15-month sentence.
Zuma’s release has also sparked controversy. His parole, which was granted by correctional services top gun Arthur Fraser, is being challenged by the DA, AfriForum and the Helen Suzman Foundation.
The former president has not been in the public eye since a video was posted online last week. In the footage, Zuma urged ANC supporters to put aside their emotions and vote for the ANC in the upcoming elections.