WATCH: Activist moving around Pietermaritzburg, demanding Jacob Zuma’s release
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Pietermaritzburg - Fees Must Fall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile has embarked on a campaign to demand the release of former president Jacob Zuma from prison, arguing that jailing a 79-year-old man is unjust.
On Monday, just before 1pm, Khanyile and Philani Nduli, a member of the EFF student command in KwaZulu-Natal, stormed the Pietermaritzburg High Court precinct, shouting on top of their voices, demanding that Zuma be released.
The actions of the two seemingly caught the army and the police guarding the heavily fortified court off-guard.
The two stopped in front of the court and made their call for Zuma to be released. That attracted the attention of people passing by and they stopped to listen to Khanyile pleading for the release of Zuma.
The former president is serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court at the Estcourt Correction Centre in KwaZulu-Natal.
“It has been a week since Msholozi (Zuma) has been jailed; we plead with you to support him until he is released,” Khanyile and the man chanted repeatedly.
They then turned their attention to the army and SAPS personnel outside the court, asking them to join the call to free Zuma.
“We greet the police, we greet the soldiers, we greet the communities. We are saying we are not fighting against anyone, we are not fighting against police officers, we are not fighting against the soldiers, but we are requesting you all to support Msholozi, President Zuma, he is 79 years of age, he is imprisoned during the (Covid-19) pandemic in jail.
"We are requesting you, soldiers, we are requesting you, police officers, we are requesting you, traffic cops, to support the call that Bab Msholozi must be free from prison. We support you and we expect you to support uBaba Msholozi.
“What is happening to ubaba Msholozi, it is something which is detrimental in our democracy. More than 300 people have been killed just because Msholozi must be imprisoned,” Khanyile said in his brief address in front of the high court.
As the police and army started gathering around Khanyile and Nduli, they continued demanding the release of Zuma as they left. They moved across the city of Pietermaritzburg, calling for his release.
Meanwhile, there was a heavy army and police presence outside the high court amid fears that the Zuma hearing could spark violence.
The court precinct was secured by heavily armed soldiers and a battalion.
A similar scene played outside the Estcourt prison where the former president is jailed and is virtually following his application to force advocate Billy Downer SC out as the prosecutor of his corruption trial.
Unlike in the past where Zuma’s supporters defied Covid-19 regulations that prohibit large gatherings, this time around they were nowhere to be seen.
The park across the high court was virtually empty, except for a police van pulling a trailer with a movable crowd-control fence.
Speaking from Durban, Nkosentsha Shezi, of RET Champion, a formation known for supporting Zuma, said their decision not to show up outside court did not mean they had dumped Zuma – they were 100 percent behind him. Instead, the were adhering to Covid-19 regulations.
“Supporters would have heeded calls to go to court but we decided not because of Covid-19. But you also have to know that we are currently living in a military state where the military police are everywhere,” Shezi said.