Supporters march in the street outside former South African president Jacob Zuma’s rural home in Nkandla on July 3, 2021. – Jacob Zuma on July 2, 2021, mounted a last-ditch legal bid to avoid prison after the country’s top court ordered him jailed for failing to appear before graft investigators. In a landmark ruling, the Constitutional Court on June 29, 2021, handed Zuma a 15-month term for contempt after he snubbed a probe into the theft of state assets under his tenure. (Photo by Emmanuel Croset / AFP)
Supporters march in the street outside former South African president Jacob Zuma’s rural home in Nkandla on July 3, 2021. – Jacob Zuma on July 2, 2021, mounted a last-ditch legal bid to avoid prison after the country’s top court ordered him jailed for failing to appear before graft investigators. In a landmark ruling, the Constitutional Court on June 29, 2021, handed Zuma a 15-month term for contempt after he snubbed a probe into the theft of state assets under his tenure. (Photo by Emmanuel Croset / AFP)

South Africans gather in support of Zuma, a day before jail deadline

NEWS DIGEST – Hundreds of supporters gathered in a show of solidarity for former South African president Jacob Zuma outside his Nkandla homestead Saturday, as the deadline looms for him to hand himself over.

In an unprecedented ruling, Zuma was on Tuesday told by the constitutional court to hand himself over by Sunday to start a 15-month jail term for contempt of court.

Supporters, mainly members of the African National Congress’s Umkhonto Wesizwe military wing, have for weeks camped outside Zuma’s home in KwaZula-Natal province in solidarity with the former leader.

Donning traditional leopard skins and ostrich feathers – wielding spears, shields and clubs known as “knobkerries,” men known as “amaButho,” or Zulu regiments marched in the streets of Nkandla, singing praise songs about Zuma.

Bare-breasted women in elaborate necklaces and headbands danced and sang as they paraded.

“The reason I am here is because I love Zuma,” one supporter told AFP, “when he was in leadership we had no electricity problems, there was no lockdown or covid.”

Tension has been bubbling under this week as members of the MKMVA military veterans’ association threatened that there would be instability in the country if the former leader was apprehended, promising to form a human shield around Zuma.

Fearing a showdown, the ruling ANC said it had postponed a scheduled meeting of its top National Executive Committee this weekend.

Numerous convoys of provincial local leaders, including the ANC secretary in Kwa Zulu Natal Mdumiseni Ntuli and provincial premier Sihle Zikalala were spotted at the homestead.

Speaking to AFP on Saturday, Zuma ally and confidant Carl Niehaus confirmed that Zuma was in his homestead and meeting visiting spiritual leaders on Saturday.

Built-in the traditional nguni homestead structure, including a majestic thatched-roof main house surrounded by dozens other smaller huts, Zuma’s multi-million rand homestead towers over the rural valley.

If the 79-year-old fails to turn himself in by Sunday, police will be given a further three days to arrest him and take him to jail to start is sentence.