- Party members ranging from councillors, Members of the Provincial Legislature(MPLs) to ordinary branch members, said Zuma’s arrest was a make or break for the ANC, and could spell an end to its grip on power in the province.
A sense of loss equivalent to losing a loved one is how many ANC members and leading figures in KwaZulu-Natal have described the feeling of seeing former president Jacob Zuma being whisked away to start his 15-month jail sentence in Estcourt late on Wednesday night.
Party members ranging from councillors, Members of the Provincial Legislature(MPLs) to ordinary branch members, said Zuma’s arrest was a make or break for the ANC, and could spell an end to its grip on power in the province.
The comments came after there were dramatic scenes outside the Estcourt prison on Thursday when suspended MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus was arrested by heavily armed police officers while he was doing a live TV interview. A small group of ANC supporters had gathered outside the Estcourt prison to show their support for Zuma.
EThekwini Community Church founder Bishop Vusi Dube said he had battled to get the energy to start the day after Wednesday evening’s developments. Dube has been one of the church leaders that have been on Zuma’s side for a number of years.
“I have stood by Zuma and I will continue to do so until the end,” he said.
Dube, who is also an ANC MPL, added that the ANC was facing a difficult task of convincing the general public to continue to trust the party.
“The challenge ahead is massive because we need to go and tell members and supporter why Msholozi is in jail because there are some who think he has been imprisoned for corruption which, as you know, is not true,” said Dube.
A former ANC Youth League member from Pietermaritzburg, who asked not to be named, said he was extremely disappointed with the development, adding that it showed a failure of leadership.
He questioned why President Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy David Mabuza were absent when the saga unfolded.
“This was not just a case of silence of leadership, this time around leadership went missing in action,” he said.
An eThekwini region ANC member, who also wanted to remain anonymous, accused the the party national executive committee of selling out Zuma, adding that only four members (Ace Magashule, Niehaus, Lindiwe Sisulu and Tony Yengeni) were genuine members and leaders at national level.
“Let’s face it, the power is no longer at Luthuli House (the ANC Headquarters), it lies somewhere else. This is a sad day for the ANC and a sad day for South Africa,” the member said.
He predicted that the campaign for the local government elections in the province would take a knock without Zuma.
“In 2019 when people were lukewarm towards the ANC, Msholozi stepped-in and the campaign gained momentum.”
United Congregational Church (UCC) Pastor Lungisani Shangase said they would continue providing spiritual support to both Zuma and his family during their hour of need.
“In my personal capacity this is really hurting as you would know no shepherd wants any harm to be visited upon any of his flock, that is how it feels and that is why I am continuing to pray for him and the entire family,” said Shangase.
Meanwhile regarding Niehaus’s arrest, police spokesperson, Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo confirmed that members of the police arrested “a prominent political figure for allegedly breaking the lockdown regulations”.
“The 61-year-old man is alleged to have convened a gathering of approximately 100 people outside the Estcourt prison at about 4pm this afternoon. The Disaster Management Act (DMA) Regulations clearly outlines gatherings are prohibited, except for funerals where not more than 50 people are allowed to attend.
“The suspect was initially warned about the gathering and he was subsequently arrested after ignoring the warning. He is currently in police custody likely to face charges in terms of the DMA Regulations. This arrest should be a warning to potential law-breakers that contravention of the lockdown regulations especially amidst the ever- increasing Covid-19 virus will not be tolerated,” Naidoo said.
Other than gathering to show solidarity with Zuma , Niehaus and Nkosentsha Shezi of RET Champions were in the area to launch the #FreeJacobZuma campaign, a nationwide campaign aimed at forcing authorities to release Zuma.
While addressing the small group of supporters shortly before his arrest, Niehaus encouraged the group not to stop fighting for the former President’s release.
“We are not going to give up. We are going to continue to mobilise. We are going to continue to work to mobilise our people to bring justice in our country,” he said.
He told the supporters that they were not just fighting for justice for Zuma, but also for others within the movement such as suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.
“Under apartheid we heard about people being silenced and banned and banished. This is the same thing happening now,” Niehaus said.
Niehaus has allegedly been taken to a local police station in Estcourt where he is expected to be charged.
Niehaus was suspended by the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) with immediate effect on Wednesday.
The ANC confirmed the suspension after a letter from ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said Niehaus’ utterances at Nkandla over the weekend brought the party into disrepute and, therefore, the party had decided to suspend his membership.
Niehaus has said he would challenge his suspension.IOL