Inkatha Freedom Party president emeritus Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has described the behaviour of amabutho who gathered at former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home in KwaZulu-Natal in a show of strength at the weekend as irresponsible and “treasonous.”
Buthelezi, who acts as traditional prime minister to the Zulu monarch, said the presumptive king, Misuzulu kaZwelithini, had informed him that the leaders of the regiments who showed up to support Zuma in defiance of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions had been summoned to explain their behaviour.
Those who had led the regiments to Nkandla did so without the permission of the incoming king and committed an “insult to the Zulu nation”, Buthelezi said.
He made the comments on Monday morning at a virtual media briefing he called in his capacity as an “elder” in South Africa’s political landscape, saying the participation of the amabutho had not been sanctioned by anybody from the Zulu royal family.
A number of Zulu regiments were among those who gathered at Zuma’s Nxamalala village home over the weekend to show support for him and in anticipation of a move by police to arrest him.
The Constitutional Court last week imposed a Sunday 4 July deadline for Zuma to hand himself over and start serving a 15-month jail sentence for contempt, but a confrontation was averted after the court agreed to hear his application for a rescission of the sentence on Monday 12 July.
Buthelezi said the events at Nkandla were already dividing the country and had the potential to “do much greater harm”.
He said while he sympathised with Zuma’s family, the former president’s lawyers had “let him down” by adopting a legal strategy that saw him refuse to comply with subpoenas and court orders to appear before the Zondo commission into state capture.
“Any lawyer would have known what the consequences would be if he refused to comply,” Buthelezi said. “Mr Zuma’s lawyers let him down and he is now facing the consequences.”
He said Zuma was not the first leader to face arrest in South African history, citing the examples of King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo and King Cetshwayo kaMpande, both of whom were exiled and imprisoned by British colonial forces.
Neither of these arrests had sparked an uprising, Buthelezi said, pointing out that even the Rivionia Trialists led by Nelson Mandela accepted their unjust trial in the 1960s.
“This is not the first time that a leader of his stature is arrested in our country … history shows us how those leaders acted, even in the face of unjust trials and how people acted in response,” Buthelezi said, adding that the events at Nkandla, taking place at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, were “simply wrong”.
“People are there challenging the state and in doing so they are [a threat to] all of us who are guided by the rule of law,” Buthelezi said, adding that the participants in the show of defiance at Nkandla were “‘jeopardising the lives of every one of us”.
“That is the greatest irresponsibility of all. It is treasonous what is going on,” he added.
Buthelezi criticised Zuma for failing to reprimand his supporters who fired shots into the air outside his home, but said he had not spoken to the former president to advise him to abide by the Constitutional Court’s ruling.