October 11, 2005

South Africans cheer sacked VP Zuma at graft hearing

By Spokes Mashiyane

DURBAN (Reuters) - Hundreds of South Africans danced and
cheered in support of sacked deputy president Jacob Zuma as he
arrived at court on Tuesday to face corruption charges in a
case that has split the ruling African National Congress.

Zuma, widely popular and once expected to succeed President
Thabo Mbeki in 2009, swept into the Durban court compound in a
fleet of black cars and four-wheel drive vehicles.

He was fired in June following the corruption conviction of
his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik.

Zuma's sacking has created tensions within Mbeki's ANC,
which has ruled since the end of apartheid in 1994 in alliance
with communists and workers grouped in the powerful labor
federation COSATU.

COSATU leaders see an ANC plot to stop Zuma from succeeding
Mbeki, and analysts say their drive to mobilize street power to
support Zuma risks destabilizing South Africa's young

Despite overcast and foggy weather, many Zuma supporters
spent the night outside the Durban High Court chanting slogans
denouncing Mbeki and wearing T-shirts proclaiming Zuma's
innocence. Police threw a cordon around the court building.

Court employees joined in the cheering as Zuma arrived, and
members of the crowd burned a T-shirt bearing Mbeki's portrait.

"We demand the withdrawal of all charges against Jacob
Zuma," read a placard in the crowd that included student
activists and members of COSATU and civic groups.

Senior pro-Zuma ANC officials who attended the night vigil
included S'bu Ndebele, premier of Zuma's home province of
KwaZulu-Natal, a politically volatile region.

"We are united in KwaZulu-Natal behind Deputy President
Jacob Zuma," Ndebele told cheering supporters.

"We are united as ANC. Comrade Msholozi is a disciplined
cadre of the movement, therefore we'll show that support today
and tomorrow and forever," he said, referring to Zuma by his
clan name.

Zuma remains deputy president of the ANC after grassroot
members revolted at a July party congress against a decision to
remove him from that position following his sacking.


National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Makhosini Nkosi
said the trial could be delayed as it was in June because
investigations were continuing. Speculation has been rife that
prosecutors would bring additional charges.

The former deputy has denied any wrongdoing and suggested
he was the victim of a vendetta by his political foes.

Zuma's sacking was hailed by some as proof of Mbeki's
determination to set an example for the rest of Africa by
fighting official corruption.

But it split the ANC, where Zuma has a large following
among the rank-and-file, particularly those who feel Mbeki's
market-oriented policies have left South Africa's poor behind.

Shaik was found guilty of soliciting an annual 500,000 rand
bribe for Zuma from a French arms firm in return for protecting
it from a probe into a massive arms deal.

He was also convicted of paying Zuma 1.3 million rand in
bribes to encourage him to use his influence to further Shaik's
business interests. Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in prison,
but remains free on appeal.