A group of religious, business and political leaders have reiterated their call for the people of South Africa to support Jacob Zuma when he appears in the High Court in Durban on Friday.
The National Interfaith Council of South Africa (Nicsa), the Commission for Religious Affairs (CRA), Delangokubona Business Forum, the National Funeral Practitioners Association of South Africa (NafupaSA) and Black First Land First (BLF) held a press briefing in Durban on Wednesday to outline why they support the former president.
Zuma is due to appear in the High Court on April 6. The Hawks issued him with a summons on March 26.
He faces 16 charges relating to 783 payments that, it is claimed, he received in connection with the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal.
The National Prosecuting Authority dropped the charges in 2009, just before Zuma was sworn in for his first term as the country's president.
Arms deal manufacturer Thint is expected to appear alongside Zuma.
'Zuma on the side of the poor'
Bishop Bheki Ngcobo said throughout Zuma's term in office, the former president had called on them as religious leaders to play a role in rebuilding the country.
"He believed that religious leaders had to join hands in ensuring that government services reach the grassroots communities [for] whom they are destined," he said.
He said there were many unanswered questions on why Zuma was being "targeted".
"It is a matter of concern that for all these years Zuma has been subjected to what appears to be a well-calculated campaign to isolate him. We have many unanswered questions. Could it be that Zuma is targeted because he has always been on the side of the poor? Could it be that Zuma is targeted because he preferred free education for the poor?" asked Ngcobo.
The majority of South Africans believe that Zuma is being targeted because he ensured the foundation for the implementation of radical socioeconomic transformation, Ngcobo claimed.
"The question that we ask as church leaders is: 'Why is it that political parties and pressure groups opposed to these policies which former president Zuma championed, on behalf of the ANC, have been the ones calling for his arrest?" he alleged.
Right to protest
He said it was not surprising that Zuma had already been found guilty in the court of public opinion.
"As Nicsa and the CRA we strongly believe that the rights of the accused must be fully observed. At the same time, we want to reiterate the principle of presumption of innocence until proven otherwise," he said.
Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama alleged that Zuma was a victim of a "well-orchestrated plan by white monopoly capital".
"These charges come very late and were timed. It's shocking to hear leaders of the ANC saying members of the ANC mustn't come and support their own member. We as comrades support each other," he said.
Mngxitama said ANC national executive committee (NEC) member and police minister Bheki Cele should not be allowed to "intimidate" anyone.
"It is our fundamental right, protected in the Constitution, to protest and support one another. The way Bheki Cele speaks is as if he wants to use his position as the Minister of Police to intimidate peaceful legal processes," he claimed.
KPMG must 'withdraw' report
Cele, speaking in Lamontville at the weekend, reportedly said Zuma should not call on the ANC to defend him, because when he was "stealing" he was not doing it for the ANC.
"No political party is banned; even the ANC is welcomed on Friday," Mngxitama said of the planned demonstration.
On the ANC NEC's call for Zuma's supporters not to wear ANC colours on Friday, Mngxitama said: "It is not illegal in South Africa to wear your political party's T-shirt. Don't be afraid! If you love your political party's T-shirt bring it, you'll be protected."
He claimed the KPMG report that was a crucial part of the case against Zuma was "compromised".
"KPMG has been found to be a criminal organisation. It had to recall its executives because of its own concocted reports. They are using this organisation's reports to basically try to put Zuma in jail," he alleged.
Mngxitama said KPMG must withdraw this report "in the same way it has withdrawn the report that showed that Pravin Gordhan is involved in criminal activities [sic]".
"Zuma is just being punished because he wants good things for black people," he claimed. "This is a message we want to send to black people. All of us must unite and say 'no'."
Call for decisive leadership
Bishop Vusi Dube, who is also an ANC member of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, said the planned night vigil on Thursday and march to court on Friday morning called for decisive leadership.
"We cannot allow hundreds of thousands of people to come to court without any directive, because at the end of the day if Durban is burning because of unruly people, we are responsible as leaders," he said.
NafupaSA and Delangokubona said they would support Zuma because, they believe, he introduced radical economic transformation, championed expropriation of land without compensation and introduced free education.