Zuma’s support slowly diminishing

Lungani Zungu

Jacob Zuma once wielded massive support in the ANC, especially in his KwaZulu-Natal home province.

It now appears that the tight grip he once had has vanished.

On Monday, the former president appeared at the Pietermaritzburg High Court over his Arms Deal corruption and fraud case, and the matter was postponed to 26 May. 

Unlike his previous appearances, however, the numbers were not convincing.

Even his staunch supporter, Ace Magashule, the suspended ANC secretary-general, could see that Zuma’s support was dwindling.

“When we come back here on 26 May, I’ll bring the entire Free State with me,” said Magashule as he addressed the crowd outside the court. 

ANC provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala and secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli were booed when they stepped up to address the crowd.

Zuma’s loyal backers were heard referring to him as a sell-out when he spoke outside the court.

They believed that the two most powerful provincial ANC leaders had switched their loyalties in favour of Ramaphosa.  

Zuma’s new legal team, led by advocate Thabani Masuku, called for state prosecutor Billy Downer to recuse himself from the case.

Masuku said they were to proceed with the case.

Sipho Ngwema, the spokesperson of the National Prosecuting Authority, told the media that the state was ready to proceed with the trial.

He said they had more than 200 witnesses to prove the state’s case.

Advocate Barry Roux, the lawyer for Zuma’s co-accused, French arms company Thales, told the court they were ready to proceed with the trial.

Zuma told his supporters outside the court that he would fight the judiciary system if he was treated unfairly.

His supporters cheered him on when he vowed to fight the judiciary system that he once took an oath to defend, protect and respect when he became president.

Zuma is placed at the centre of the 1999 strategic defence acquisition, dubbed the Arms Deal.

He is alleged to have pocketed bribes totalling more than R500,000 a year.

His one-time financial advisor-turned-enemy Schabir Shaik was the mastermind behind the bribes.

Shaik was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to more than 15 years in jail, and released in March 2009.

Picture source: @PresJGZuma