- Minister of Police Bheki Cele has sent out a stern warning to all those who may have been on the wrong side of lockdown regulations amid large gatherings in Nkandla
- Cele's comments come on the backdrop of the huge fanfare at the homestead of former president Jacob Zuma following the recent ConCourt judgement sentencing him to 15-months in prison
- Thousands of people, including MKMVA members, Amabutho (Amazulu regiments) and ANC members, gathered in large numbers in a show of support to the former president over the past few days
In light of the recent dramatic scenes that played out in Nkandla, the Minister of Police Bheki Cele has vowed to throw the book at all those who flouted lockdown regulations.
The ruling found Zuma guilty of contempt of court for which the then-Acting Chief Justice, Sisi Khampepe, sentenced the former statesman to serve 15-months in prison.
In response and in solidarity with the ageing Zuma, throngs of supporters headed to his homestead located in northern KwaZulu-Natal, before clashing with police at the weekend.
Zuma has since filed a rescission application on Friday, which effectively asks the court to set aside both the contempt order and the prison sentence.
Throngs of Zuma supporters match police with outrage
This meant the former president would not be arrested after midnight on Sunday, as initially ordered by the apex court. The ConCourt has now issued directions that it would hear Zuma’s rescission case on 12 July.
The scenes at Nkandla occurred both before and after this development when police blockaded the road leading to the town; a move that sparked outrage from the large group of loyalists who were bent on seeing their journey to its end.
They were travelling in a motorcade which was making its way from Eshowe. Many believe the gatherings defied the adjusted Level 4 lockdown regulations. For their part, police have been criticised for inaction in the face of a blatant disregard of the rule of law by those gathered.
Responding to the widespread criticism, Cele, during a visit to the site of a vaccination roll-out for police members in Soweto on Monday, told the media that the number of people who were believed to be armed exceeded 100.
Law enforcement rebuts accusations of non-action
He said the police did not take action against the supporters as the officers had to keep things under control, to avoid a situation mimicking that of the Marikana massacre. Cele said the police would, in any event, be arresting those who defied the lockdown rules.
"Just because we didn't pick them on that day, it doesn't mean we're not going to," he said, according to a report by The Citizen.
Also commenting on the situation, National Police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said officers had increased their presence in the province to respond to anyone undermining the regulations.
“During the deployment, SAPS commanders and members on the ground had been provided clear and concise directives that responses to any and all situations must be informed by proper analysis," said Naidoo.
"To this end, every situation will be assessed and dealt with on its own merit. Organising or being part of gatherings will also result in people being fined, jailed, or both."
Democracy hero to convict: Zuma judgement put under the microscope
Zuma's ConCourt judgement has come under the glaring eye of the microscope as South Africa and the world look on and attempt to make sense of the scenes that have played out.
The country's embattled former president was once seen as a struggle hero, putting his weight strongly behind what was a raging fight against the ills of an oppressive racial system.
Briefly News reported that the former statesman faces the prospect of spending the next 15 months of his life behind bars – at 79 years of age – having once been familiar with the cold metal bars of a jail cell as a political prisoner.
This next foreseeable chapter in his journey up to now is courtesy of a defiant stance against a corruption probe into his administration.
That open defiance brought contempt of court charges being levelled against Zuma, months after he denied an order to appear before the State Capture Inquiry, with the additional ruling that the charges cannot be appealed.
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