Jacob Zuma preached unity in the governing party when he hit the streets of Durban and Pietermaritzburg last week as part of a provincial ANC programme.
Thousands of people turned out for a glimpse of the former president — who was accompanied by the provincial and regional ANC leadership — as he called on party supporters to put aside their differences and vote for the ANC, “regardless of who is leading it”.
Zuma was campaigning ahead of the ANC’s annual January 8 statement, which will be delivered in Durban by President Cyril Ramaphosa on January 12.
While alliance partners labour federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party have called for Zuma to be excluded from the ANC election campaign because of the corruption charges he faces, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has involved him in voter-registration campaigns and asked that he take part in the drive.
It is concerned that a backlash against the ANC over his axing in February might cost the party dearly in the province, where its support grew during Zuma’s presidency.
Zuma called on supporters in Clermont to put on a “united front” because the elections would be “more difficult than previous ones” and the party needed to regain its two-thirds majority to avoid being forced into a coalition.
As Zuma kicked off the programme last Friday, his legal team was filing an application for a permanent stay of prosecution to the high court in Pietermaritzburg, where he is expected to appear on November 30 on corruption and racketeering charges linked to the arms deal and illegal payments he received from fraudster Schabir Shaik. Shaik was jailed for 15 years over the payments, made to Zuma when he was economic development MEC in KwaZulu-Natal.
Zuma’s previous court appearances have been used by some of his allies, including the Black First Land First movement and former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, to attack the ANC, his supporters are trying to tone down ANC-bashing at the next appearance.
The party’s national executive committee had ordered that supporters attending court do so in their private capacity and refrain from wearing party regalia, a ruling that has largely been ignored.
Bishop Vusi Dube, ANC MPL and leader of the National lnterfaith Council of South Africa, said Zuma’s appearances in the province had ensured that the party’s Moses Mabhida region was “mobilised”.
“Msholozi has been campaigning for the ANC these days; the visibility is already there and people want to give him support,’’ Dube said.
He said that “other parties” who had been part of preparing for earlier court appearances had not participated this time. “We won’t stop them from coming to support, but the ANC is taking a stand of standing with Msholozi, so the mood is definitely going to change.”
Dube said 30 buses would transport supporters to Pietermaritzburg from Gauteng and other parts of KwaZulu-Natal. They would participate in a vigil the night before his appearance and march to court the next morning. The ANC’s provincial leadership and secretary general Ace Magashule would also be there.