Former president Jacob Zuma says he is not using his illness to run from the law and if he is sent to jail, he will serve his time.
A visibly jovial but weaker-looking Zuma addressed hundreds of supporters at OR Tambo International Airport on Saturday, following his recent trip to Cuba for medical treatment.
While the name of Zuma’s illness has not been disclosed, he has been in and out of hospital for several months and has failed to attend to court for his corruption case.
Among those in attendance were hardened long-time Zuma supporters, including Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, ANC Free State chairperson Sam Mashinini, ANC members of Parliament Supra Mahumapelo, Mosebenzi Zwane and Joe Maswanganyi.
Speaking for a short period in Zulu, Zuma said he was not making formal address but just saying a few words to thank his supporters.
“I’ve never been afraid of jail. If I am required to go, I will go. Even under the apartheid regime, I went to jail. The Boers, they charged me and I was arrested for 10 years and came out fresh,” he said.
“Even if our ANC government finds me guilty, I will go to jail, serve my time and come out again,” he continued.
‘My eyes can see’
Throwing in a few jokes here and there, the former leader, who also wore dark sunglasses, told supporters he had a procedure on his eyes and experienced light sensitivity, before he removed them to show “naysayers” that his eyes were fine.
“I don’t want them to leave here saying I’ve got one eye. I don’t want them to speculate. My eyes can see,” he said as hooked around the arrivals hall, where supporters dressed in ANC regalia had gathered.
Zuma said he had decided to prioritise his health and was consulting doctors about it. He said he was in contact with the court about his sick note.
The KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg issued a warrant for the arrest of the former president after he failed to attend court for his corruption trial in February.
“[I am] still meeting with the courts. They still doubt whether I am sick or not. Before the judge started talking about the doctor’s note, my illness had been the subject of numerous discussions,” said Zuma.
“I took a decision that my well-being is important. It’s important that I seek medical attention and those who are waiting for me at the courts and others who are waiting in other places find me in good health and I don’t see a problem with that,” said Zuma.
He is also wanted at the state capture commission of inquiry, where it is alleged that during his tenure as head of state, he allowed the Gupta family to plunder from the country’s coffers.
He thanked the likes of Masina for standing by him and wanting to serve time in jail on his behalf.
Zuma also said the Ekurhuleni mayor was one of the first people to call him after the warrant was issued.
Zuma is due back in court on May 6, 2020.