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Zuma enjoys unrivalled support at CT prayer meeting

Glynnis Underhill

The Western Cape Christian Minister's Forum staged a mass prayer meeting in a backlash against opposition party and media criticism of Jacob Zuma.

The mass prayer meeting at Cape Town's Good Hope Centre, held in honour of Jacob Zuma. (David Harrison, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma was already seated on the platform at a mass prayer meeting called in his honour on Monday when large crowds of his supporters suddenly surged to the exit of the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town.

While there was clearly something happening outside, nobody could have guessed that a rumour had started that ANC T-shirts were being handed out on the street.

It turned out to be a false rumour that had started a frenzy. 

An ANC supporter looked out the window at the crowds rushing to a party van on the road and said people were so desperate for T-shirts. "They are poor and they want anything they can get," she said, declining to be named.

Zuma's many bodyguards had been on red alert as the crowds rushed in and out of the hall, but calm soon resumed at the meeting when the disappointed supporters took up their seats again. 

Among the ANC luminaries present were Western Cape ANC chair Marius Fransman and former Cape Town ANC mayor Normaindia Mfeketo, who joined in the choral singing and dancing.

Exuberant event
The mass prayer meeting was an exuberant event, staged to show the support of the Western Cape Christian Minister's Forum for Zuma, who they said had come under fire from many quarters, including opposition and the media. 

This backlash followed the release of public protector Thuli Madonsela's Nkandla report, which said he and his family had improperly benefited from lavish upgrades to his estate in KwaZulu Natal.

People in the church and party who had called for votes to be spoilt or for people not to vote for the ANC were not individually named but denounced by speakers, and even referred to by some as the "devil's advocates". 

Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils has had his anti-apartheid struggle credentials questioned, including his leading role in the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, since he became involved in the launch of the campaign Vukani! Sidkiwe! (Wake Up! We are Fed Up!). The campaign urged voters to vote strategically for opposition parties or spoil the May 7 ballots in protest against government corruption and maladministration.

Easter march
Over the Easter weekend, around a thousand people from Cape Town's Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities united to march to Parliament in protest against government corruption. The procession was led by Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, who said South Africans must unite behind Madonsela in fighting the Nkandla debate.

On this significant public holiday, Zuma took the more moderate line, after he had listened to speaker after speaker heap praise on him for his work and his devotion to the struggle. Zuma's story, many speakers said, was a "good story to tell". 

And when Zuma stood up to give his speech, and to lead his supporters in song, he looked more upbeat than he had when he first walked in. In a grey suit and tie, he spoke with ease and confidence, coming from knowing the hall was filled almost to capacity with his supporters.

"We believe things have changed. We believe that the organisation that was entrusted with the task to change the quality of life of our people and to reconstruct South Africa has made good progress," said Zuma. "There are good policies, good programmes, and we are working hard to ensure that South Africa changes, and we as the citizens of this country should appreciate that indeed things have changed and things will continue to change."

'Pray hard'
Zuma said people needed to "pray very hard" for citizens who think that nothing is happening and nothing has changed.

"You know better, and one of the leaders referred to the long journey from Egypt to the land of promise. But some people along the way on the road began to look back. I think it is better to help our citizens and not to do so, and not to see negativity in what has been done."

The majority in this country had spoken, just as they were going to speak again during the elections, said Zuma.

"I am happy this gathering is in the Western Cape because in my view, the Western Cape is an unfortunate province of the nine provinces. There is an unfortunate voice that says that everything is fine in the Western Cape," Zuma said. A roar started up from the crowd. "Until you walk into the areas of the black citizens of the Western Cape and you realise the problems. And I hope the citizens of the Western Cape can now realise that they need to liberate themselves."


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