Former president Jacob Zuma’s foundation says it will host a “national welcome prayer” for him next week in Durban following his release on medical parole for an undisclosed medical illness.
On Friday, Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, and the foundation’s spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi briefed the media in Johannesburg on preparations for the event.
Manyi, who described Zuma as a “symbol of oppression for the people of South Africa”, said the event would be held on Thursday at People’s Park near Moses Mabhida Stadium.
He said Zuma would be welcomed and prayed for by various churches of all denominations, African spirituality and traditionalists. The foundation said the programme and line-up of speakers was still being finalised.
“His excellency, [former] president Zuma, is loved by an overwhelming majority of the people of South Africa and all of them have been very worried about his incarceration,” Manyi said.
Manyi said Zuma’s supporters were “very worried that horrible things might happen to him” while he was imprisoned at the Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal.
He said some of the supporters even expressed concerns that Zuma might get poisoned while in jail.
“The people of South Africa are still grieving that their hero, a true freedom fighter, [and] a man that sacrificed spending time with his family, was dealt a severe and an unjust blow by the judicial system of this country and the democracy that he fought so tirelessly,” he said.
Zuma was released on medical parole last month under questionable grounds just two months into his 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court after he openly defied orders from the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) to appear before the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.
Will Zuma attend prayer event?
Manyi said they were hoping that Zuma would attend the event on Thursday, but this would depend on his doctors giving him the green light to leave his home in Nkandla, northern KwaZulu-Natal.
He said as things stood, the former president’s health was “very fluid”.
“Let’s just pray that he is there but the situation is still fluid because president Zuma is still on medical parole.”
Manyi said they would try to stick to the limit on the number of people allowed to gather under government’s lockdown regulations.
He urged people planning to attend the event to wear their face masks.
“We will be outside and there will be social distancing,” he said.
Under the adjusted level 1 lockdown, only 2,000 people are allowed to gather outside and 750 indoors.
Zuma campaigning for ANC
Following a video message issued by his foundation, in which he called on South Africans to vote for the ANC in the 1 November municipal elections, Manyi said if it was possible, Zuma would also campaign for the governing party.
“If it is not unlawful for president Zuma to campaign, he will campaign. The only thing that will stop him is if it’s unlawful,” he said.
Zuma’s daughter said her father was grateful for all the prayers and well wishes he received while he was incarcerated and during his admission to hospital.
“I just want to take this opportunity to send a message to the nation from my father who wants to just say thank you for all the love and support. He appreciates that and all the messages of well wishes and he hopes to see you guys soon,” Zuma-Sambudla said.
She said she was happy that her father was now home with his family after he was “illegally arrested”.
“We are happy to have him home because he was taken from us very illegally, so we are happy to have him home.”