PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma, who faces mounting criticism and a strong bid to remove him as ANC leader, has turned to his ancestors for help ahead of Mangaung.
Zuma’s family slaughtered 12 cows and burnt traditional incense at his Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday, at a ceremony where Zulu warriors danced, sang songs and brandished traditional weapons.
ANC leaders were nowhere to be seen, but the seemingly unfazed Zuma lifted his spear and danced when thousands of his family members and relatives gathered to pray for him to win a second term as ANC president.
Inkosi Bheki Zuma gave him a Zulu shield and spear, and told him to use the weapons to protect himself from his ANC opponents.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is expected to challenge Zuma, who has also been slammed over allegations that he spent R200 million of taxpayers’ money upgrading his private residence.
The ceremony came as various provinces, including Zuma’s home province of KZN, held provincial general councils to nominate leaders ahead of the crucial elective conference next month.
It appeared to be a repeat of what Zuma did in the run-up to the 2007 Polokwane conference, when he visited Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini to get his blessing.
The meat of the 12 cows, which had been cooked on an open fire, was dished out to guests, who also enjoyed traditional beer.
“Eight of them were slaughtered on Friday. Two others were killed [on Saturday], while the last two are being killed now [yesterday]. We are here to give our father a send-off to Mangaung. With this ceremony we are now sure that he is protected and he will come back to celebrate with us,” said Nomthandazo Zuma, who travelled all the way from Impendle.
There were also people of other races, who claimed to be business people connected to the president.
About 15 buses were hired to transport Zuma’s family members and relatives from Impendle, Msinga, Pietermaritzburg and Durban. Other people travelled from Joburg and Pretoria.
The ceremony started at the homestead of the Nxamalala clan’s Bheki Zuma. This is where traditional incense was burnt, a symbol of communicating with the ancestors. Zuma then led the armed warriors to his old homestead – known as Entembeni.
The ceremony ended in his luxurious homestead, where his brother Michael and other elders continued to talk to the ancestors. Michael also gave the crowd a brief rundown of Zuma’s credentials as a freedom fighter who spent time in prison and in exile.
“Whenever he was facing trouble, we know that that would be over and we would be happy with him again,” Michael said.
Nduduzo Zuma, 17, had travelled about 100km from Greytown to attend the ceremony.
He said he was supporting Zuma’s bid to retain his position as the country’s president.
“Where I come from, lots of development has been done. We now have sport facilities, which were not there before Zuma became the president.
“I also appreciate that I had walked into the president’s home for the first time in my life,” said Nduduzo.
Towards the end of the ceremony, Zuma’s son Edward instructed police and bodyguards to escort journalists out of his homestead.
“Who invited you? Who told you to come here? Are you part of the prayer family?” he asked.
Two bodyguards manhandled a journalist of The Star’s sister paper, The Mercury, before one confiscated a notebook. He scanned it before he tore off written pages.
The reporter was then instructed to get into a police vehicle and was driven out of the compound.