The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday warned that arresting former president Jacob Zuma for defying the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) could divide the governing party and the country at large.
“If he gets arrested, it’s perfectly clear that society will be divided into two groups. There will be those who believe his arrest is a travesty of justice and others who will be convinced that he deserves to be arrested because he violated a decision of the highest court in the land,” said ANC KwaZulu-Natal secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli.
Ntuli was speaking at a press briefing following the provincial leadership’s meeting with Zuma last Wednesday at the ANC’s headquarters in Durban.
He said the meeting was convened in an attempt to understand his reasons to rebel against a ConCourt order in January compelling him to appear before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture this month.
Earlier this month, the commission opened a criminal case against Zuma for failing to appear before it in January and said it would consider further action should he fail to obey a summons issued for his next appearance from 15 to 19 February 2021.
Ntuli said this had already divided the country and the ANC. He said despite Zuma’s claims that he doesn’t fear being arrested, the implications could be profound for the party.
“The implications to the unity and cohesion of the ANC are going to be profound because, as you have seen now, people who are visiting him coming from within the ranks of the ANC. In many instances, those are comrades who have taken sides on the matter, who have decided to be on the side of former president Zuma.
“And our concern is that sooner rather than later, the arrest of the former president will soon be appropriated to either the sitting president of the ANC or some of the leaders of the ANC. And when that happens, divisions within the ANC will run deep and the ANC will lose its ability to lead our people towards the creation of a national democratic society,” Ntuli said.
He said the province was also worried about the future of the country. He said they were convinced that “the future of South Africa is deeply intertwined with the future of the ANC”.
“If the ANC doesn’t perform well [and] doesn’t live up to its own mission and vision, South Africa is going to be something other than what all of us are dreaming about,” he said.
Regarding calls by some within the ANC for Zuma to be disciplined and suspended, Ntuli said the provincial leadership wanted the national officials of the ANC to engage with the former president on his stance against the ConCourt.
“We think that must be the task of the national leadership of the ANC. We are not here talking about an ordinary chap, we are talking about a former president of the movement, a serving member of the national executive committee [NEC] by virtue of being a former president of the ANC.
“Our view is that all of us who are concerned within and outside the ANC, must to a larger extent – especially those of us within the ANC – call upon the national officials of to rise to the occasion to engage with Zuma and make him understand the implications of the position that he has adopted,” Ntuli said.
The ANC’s highest decision-making body between conferences, the NEC, is scheduled to meet this weekend.
The virtual NEC gathering is widely expected to discuss Zuma’s declaration to defy the ConCourt and calls for his removal from the ANC.