ANC pressures Zulu king-in-waiting to deal with subjects flocking to Nkandla

The arrival of a traditional Zulu regiment at former president Jacob Zuma’s home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal has upset the ANC, which has called on the presumptive Zulu monarch, Misuzulu ka Zwelithini, to tell them to stand down. 

The Mail & Guardian has previously reported that ANC leaders would approach the king-in-waiting for help in reining in his subjects if talks with Zuma failed. 

“The images of the Zulu regiment on TV in their numbers frustrated the ANC. Something needed to be done to contain this situation so comrade Zweli [Mkhize, the suspended health minister] had to make the call to the king to ask that he take control of the situation,” one party leader said. 

In a statement released shortly before midnight on Saturday, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the prime minister of the Zulu monarch-in-waiting, said that the royal family wished to distance themselves from the actions of Zihogo Nhleko, who led a formation of people dressed in Zulu attire and carrying traditional weapons to Nkandla to join those who are sympathising with Zuma.

The royal family said that these actions were not sanctioned by the king-in-waiting. 

“Clearly his majesty does not encourage people to defy regulations,” Buthelezi wrote. “He never sent Nhleko to Nkandla, nor did he instruct him to go. While it has nothing to do with sympathy for the former president, the king does not want to involve the royal family or himself in what Nhleko and those who accompanied him did. It was a clear act of defiance. His majesty wishes for the nation to have all the information on this matter so that no one will be misled.” 

Buthelezi is also expected to hold a media briefing on Monday at which he is expected to condemn the actions of the presumptive king’s subjects and call on them to go home. 

It emerged on Friday afternoon that the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) had deployed some of their leaders in at attempt to defuse the situation at Nkandla after an NEC meeting scheduled for Saturday was postponed. Deployees included the party’s deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Jeff Radebe, Zweli Mkhize, Bheki Cele, Tony Yengeni,Thabang Makwetla, Ayanda Dlodlo, Thoko Didiza and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.  

Talks between the ANC’s top leaders and the former president ended before they began when he told them he was unwilling to compromise.

An insider with intimate knowledge of the meeting said Zuma was unrelenting in his resolve that he was not willing to surrender himself to the Westville Prison in Durban. 

Zuma met with Sihle Zikalala, the province’s premier, and the party’s provincial secretary, Mdumiseni Ntuli, for at least five hours at his home. Zikalala and Ntuli were also at Zuma’s Nkandla homestead to facilitate a virtual meeting of the NEC deployees with the former president. 

The  M&G understands that Ntuli and Zikalala attempted to convince the former president to hand himself over to the police on Sunday. 

“The announcement by the Constitutional Court could not have come at a better time,” one provincial executive committee (PEC) member said. “The NEC and chair [Zikalala] and the secretary [Ntuli] were outwitted. Zuma has hundreds of people outside his home and when the amabutho [Zulu regiment] came, it became a serious matter. We were saved by [the] ConCourt.”

While Zuma was in talks with the ANC leaders on Saturday, news broke that the Constitutional Court would hear Zuma’s application for a rescission of his 15-month sentence for contempt on Monday 12 July.

The Zondo commission, which indicated that it will oppose the application, was given until Tuesday to file papers.

The M&G reported that the former president is asking the court to set aside both the contempt order and the prison sentence, as well as its instructions that he hand himself over to the police by midnight on Sunday July 4 at the latest, or face arrest within the following three days.

Zuma pleads with the court to “relook its decision and to merely reassess whether it has acted within the constitution or, erroneously, beyond the powers vested in the court by the constitution”.

His application was brought in terms  of rule 42 of the uniform rules of court, read with rule 29 of the Constitutional Court, which states that a court may vary or rescind a ruling granted in the absence of the affected party.

The M&G understands that Zuma’s camp is calling for him todemanded that he be given a presidential pardon, but this fell on deaf ears. The ANC leaders told them that a pardon would give the impression that President Cyril Ramaphosa was undermining the constitution and the judiciary. 

The insider said ANC leaders are open to negotiating that the former president serve his sentence in Nkandla under house arrest, but this offer would not be accepted by the Zuma family as yet.

The ANC also threatened to withdraw Zuma’s government protection services should he refuse to comply with the sentence. 

Speaking to a contingent of the Zulu regiment on Saturday, Zuma said it would be difficult for him to abide by the judgment when he had done nothing wrong. 

“I don’t know what I have done. I’ve never been told. When they argued all I heard that I was accused of was my talks on politics. They were arguing about politics … It shows that the law and those who are governing the country don’t know what these powers mean. These powers don’t give you the right to mess around because they can cause a very big situation that could have been avoided. 

“I hope that we remember that on the day this [state capture] commission was established, I told them they [would] regret this decision one day because this has never been done. No government has ever volunteered to investigate itself. Every government has its secrets which must never be revealed. You also can’t agitate people. You do something against the will of the people because you have the power. I think that your outrage is important because maybe those with the authority will know they are in charge of people,” Zuma said. 

The ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee is also said to be divided on the matter. One PEC member who spoke to the M&G said that the majority feel that Zuma’s imprisonment would harm the party in the province. A special PEC meeting was scheduled, but the committee believed that the situation must be dealt with at national level and called it off, the provincial leader said. 

“It’s going to divide us even further. Some feel he should go in [to jail] and some feel the sentence is harsh, but there is consensus in the PEC that the former president doesn’t listen,” the provincial leader said. 

Zuma’s controversial son Edward told the M&G on Thursday that his father “is not going to report to any police station or to any corrections services. If they want Zuma they must kill us first — we are here camping in his house.”

He said those backing his father had ammunition to deal with any move by the police. 

“Whoever brings [the] police, we will deal with them. When they throw teargas at us, we will throw one back. We have the ammunition … Any policeman that comes near us, we will shoot to kill, we will defend Zuma.”

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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