‘Difficult period for the movement’: ANC champions Constitution after Zuma arrest

The ruling party urged its members to 'remain calm and respect' Zuma's 'brave' late-night accession to the ConCourt's imprisonment order.

In a terse statement on Thursday morning, the ANC has noted that its former leader Jacob Zuma had complied with an order – albeit three days late – that he hand himself over to police to begin serving a 15-month prison sentence after being convicted of contempt by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) last week.

The ruling party said this was a ‘difficult period for the movement’, urging its members to ‘remain calm and respect’ Zuma’s late-night accession to the ConCourt order that he serve a custodial sentence after his defiance of an order to appear before the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.

“Former president Jacob Zuma’s decision to abide by the incarceration order was truly a brave and hard decision to make. We wish him well.”

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The ANC also championed the Constitution and rule of law.

“The ANC has always restated its unequivocal commitment to, and defence of the Constitution, in particular the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law and independence of the judiciary, amongst the founding principles and values of the Republic of South Africa,” the ruling party said.

On Wednesday night, there was confusion and chaos in Nkandla over whether Zuma would indeed be arrested and begin serving his sentence, as the clock ticked toward the deadline for his arrest, after missing the 4 July deadline to hand himself over to police.

Just before midnight, a convoy of SUVs was seen speeding out of Zuma’s homestead, with police later confirming that the former president had been arrested and would be spending the night in prison.

Justice Sisi Khampepe, in her ruling last week, had instructed Police Minister Bheki Cele and National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole to arrest Zuma within three days, should he fail to report to a police station in Nkandla or Johannesburg by 4 July.

The suspended weigh in

Minutes after the ANC’s statement, newly-suspended member and Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) spokesperson, Carl Niehaus, tweeted that he – along with “other comrades” – would congregate at Escort Prison, where Zuma is currently incarcerated, “to register our protest at Nxamalala’s unjust imprisonment”.

Niehaus, a staunch Zuma supporter, was suspended from the ANC with immediate effect on Wednesday, a day after he, in effect, showed the party’s national executive committee (NEC) the middle finger.

Niehaus, however, said he intended to appeal the party’s decision “with immediate effect”, and that he was still a “dedicated liberation fighter”.

On Tuesday evening, Zuma and Niehaus ally – suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule – told Zuma supporters to “soldier on”.

Taking to social media, Magashule said: “Be strong now because things will get better. It might be stormy now, but it can’t rain forever. We soldier on.”

On Tuesday, after a special NEC meeting, ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said Zuma was still an elder of the ANC who “we love and respect”. 

She committed to senior party members engaging in talks with Zuma about his legal plight.

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Additional reporting by Cheryl Kahla and Nica Richards

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