06/04/2018 14:13 SAST | Updated 06/04/2018 14:13 SAST

Rogues' Gallery Of Support For Zuma In Durban

About 800 supporters showed up, but there was just one former Zuma Cabinet minister – and no ANC leaders in the crowd.

A disgraced broadcasting boss, an alleged Gupta-linked party leader and the chair of a disbanded ANC provincial executive committee. These were some of the people who stood centre-stage alongside Jacob Zuma after he appeared in the high court in Durban on Friday.

Zuma supporters and political loyalists rallied together from across the province in a show of support for the former president, appearing on 16 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering. Also on the defence benches were staff members of French arms company Thales, who stand as his co-accused.

READ: The State vs Jacob Zuma: 9 Things You Need To Know

Greeting Zuma when he addressed his supporters were the likes of KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu, disbanded KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial executive committee leader Sihle Zikalala, former SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama.

Pontsho Mabena

Other than former cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Des van Rooyen, no members of Zuma's former Cabinet were present, and neither were any current national ANC leaders.

The pro-Zuma festivities started on Thursday afternoon, when a group calling themselves RET (Radical Economic Transformation) Defenders mobilised outside the Durban University of Technology and marched to Albert Park, where they met with members of two faith-based organisations, the National Interfaith Council of South Africa and the Commission of Religious Affairs.

Early on Friday, the groups met again to make the 700-metre march to the high court.

But before that, local and international media congregated on the streets outside the courthouse, eagerly awaiting the former president's arrival. The police mobilised, lining the driveway to the court and the adjacent road, equipped with riot gear.

Pontsho Mabena

Zuma arrived in an eight-car convoy almost synchronously with his supporters, but disappeared into a parking lot away from the attention of the media. His supporters made a more vibrant entrance.

The beating of drums marked their arrival, as they made their way to a portable stage set up in the centre of the road. Led by a marching band, the group of about 200 supporters sang struggle songs and chanted Zuma's name.

As court proceedings continued inside, the size of the support group on the street grew exponentially. Roughly 1,000 people were in attendance.

One supporter, Bongani Mahlobo, travelled from Ekurhuleni in Gauteng to be there.

"Zuma is a leader of the ANC in good standing. We came here to support one of our own. He is being accused of stealing. How many people are stealing? Oppenheimer is stealing," Mahlobo alleged. "The list is endless. What they claim Zuma stole is just a drop in the ocean."

Sifiso Mthembu, from Inanda, said he came to support Zuma because he fights for black citizens.

"We support Zuma and what he stands for. I believe he is fighting for me. He's challenging the people who committed crimes against black people," he claimed. "I'm here to stand with him."

Another supporter, Senzo Hlengwa, said Zuma is the father of the nation.

"Anything in South Africa comes from Msholozi. Free education, jobs. I don't know how other people hate him," Hlengwa told HuffPost.

Rogan Ward / Reuters
Supporters of Jacob Zuma march to the high court in Durban. April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

READ: 'Blacks Are Now Saying It Is Enough' – What Zuma Told His Supporters

Zuma exited the court to a wave of excitement, his supporters chanting his name as he made his way to the stage. Prayers from various religious leaders and messages of support from his loyalists welcomed him.

On stage, Umkhonto we Sizwe Veterans Association member and former Zuma spokesperson Carl Niehaus said the organisation pledges its support for him because he has supported the poor in South Africa.

Motsoeneng attacked the ANC for "running away" from its own people. Zikalala emphasised that no court has as yet pronounced Zuma guilty.

Zuma took the mic, thanking his supporters, before attacking opposition parties and the judiciary.

He said he had never before seen a case that had been taken to court, dropped, then reinstated. He claimed that members of Parliament have hidden agendas, which they propagate through their parties, and that he is innocent until proven otherwise.

He left the stage after an energetic rendition of "Umshini Wami" and the crowd slowly dispersed.