Many people from the vast rural Nkandla area in northern KwaZulu-Natal feel, for different reasons, that former president Jacob Zuma should not be sent to jail after being found in contempt of the Constitutional Court.
However, there are also those that think the law should take its course.
In recent years Nkandla has become synonymous with former president Zuma and his controversial home. But Nkandla is a 1 800 square kilometres area and has a population of 114 000 people.
SABC News visited ordinary people who live about 10 kilometres away from Zuma’s large, fenced residence. Driving on gravel roads crisscrossing the area where the hills are dotted with rondawels, it is not uncommon to come across cattle ambling across the road.
Going about her business around her home, the 90-year-old Ngenzeni Ndlovu speaks with conviction about Zuma’s jail sentence.
“I don’t want Zuma to go to jail, there are many cases happening in government all of them linked to Zuma. It’s sad to me that by refusing to go to the commission that means he should be sent to jail, why? People should remember Zuma is somebody’s child as well and it is so painful giving birth, I repeat I don’t want Zuma to be jailed.”
Kwanele Buthelezi-Ndlovu says Zuma had served and helped many people at Nkandla, and feels that the court should have taken this into account. Buthelezi-Ndlovu is worried about tensions building up in the area.
“We do not want Zuma to be arrested. He is an old man and for us who live with him here in Nkandla, he is not dangerous but very helpful. He has assisted so many orphans, some went to universities through his foundation. He has built homes for other poor families. So I think those who want to arrest him need to reconsider their decision because tensions are building up in our area. Sometimes we are even scared of leaving our homes, we do not want bloodshed. They need to leave Zuma alone.”
Zuma supporters at Nkandla
— Nonkululeko Hlophe (@Leko3) July 2, 2021
Some elderly men in the area are also up in arms about Zuma’s sentence. Funukwazi Ndlovu says Zuma is one of their own, somebody who still respects traditions like traditional skins, also called ibheshu.
“I am deeply saddened by what is happening to Zuma. It is the first time seeing a leader being persecuted like this. We have in the past heard of leaders like Botha who refused to go to Truth and Reconciliation Commission, they were never dragged to courts, but we are puzzled why Zuma is continuously attacked. We are hearing he is going to jail, which has angered so many people. We are fuming, this time around we have even put aside our political differences of either being ANC, IFP we are going to fight for Zuma as one of our own Zulu people. Even when he was the president of the country, Zuma remained with us, practiced our culture, continued to wear our traditional animal skin regalia, he is deeply rooted in our traditions. He is always preaching respect to our community, even when he addresses us he calls us his brothers.”
A young man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, feels Zuma should go to prison and serve his sentence.
“Eish, for me I think Zuma should not allow the situation to get out of hand, he should lead by example and go to jail to serve his time, he is a leader. Anyway, he was afforded a chance to go and testify before the Zondo Commission but he chose to walk out of it. Even if there are political battles, his decision not to go to the commission led to where he is now. Anyway as ordinary people we are also watching if the police will treat Zuma differently should he not hand himself over, no one is above the law.”
The Jacob Zuma Foundation has indicated that the former president will address the nation this weekend.
In terms of the Constitutional Court order, he must hand himself over to the police at the latest at midnight on Sunday.
Zuma supporters gather at his Nkandla home: