Former president Jacob Zuma, who is on medical parole, spent five hours behind closed doors at the Siyaba Casino in Durban with around 10 of his closest allies.
FORMER president Jacob Zuma, who is on medical parole, has been holding closed-door meetings with a select few of his allies at the Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom in Durban.
Details of what was discussed on Friday in a private boardroom at the hotel between Zuma and a group of more than 10 people in a meeting that lasted for about five hours was unclear.
Among those who were present were Zuma’s vocal supporters, former uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association spokesperson Carl Niehaus and former South African Airways chairperson Dudu Myeni.
Zuma’s daughter Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, who has been called out for her perceived instigation of violence during the looting and unrest in July, was also there.
The former president was expected to be present at a mass prayer meeting that was held for him at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Thursday but instead made his address via video, in which he urged his supporters to vote for the ANC in the upcoming elections.
While Zuma was a no-show, his backers, former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, former finance minister Des van Rooyen, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and Niehaus were present.
Zuma, 79, has reportedly been ill since his incarceration in July. Zuma had been found to be in contempt of a court order, compelling him to appear before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, in which he was expected to answer allegations made against him.
On July 7 he handed himself over to authorities and began serving his 15-month jail sentence at the Estcourt Correctional Service. Less than two months into his sentence, with a lot of that time being spent in hospital, Zuma was released on medical parole.
In a conversation overheard between Zuma, who left the boardroom to use the toilet, and Niehaus, who had not yet joined the meeting, Niehaus asked how he was doing.
“I’m good as always,” Zuma responded with a smile and went back to the boardroom.
A further eight people who were not part of the first meeting, including Niehaus, were seated outside the boardroom for approximately an hour before they went in. During the marathon meeting the guests were served cooldrinks, tea and water. They also had lunch.
Independent Media approached Myeni, who came out of the meeting briefly to use the toilet, to find out what the meeting was about, to which she replied, “It is none of your business.”
Myeni said she did not owe any explanation to anyone.
“Go and ask the spokesperson of the (Jacob Zuma) foundation,” she said before returning to the meeting.
Mzwanele Manyi, spokesperson for The Jacob Zuma Foundation, said what was discussed in the meeting was “not in the public’s interest”.
He said Zuma had every right to be where he wanted to be. “As long as he is within the province, he has not violated any medical parole rule.”
When asked whether the former president was fit enough to attend lengthy meetings, Manyi did not respond.
According to a reliable source who is known to Independent Media, Zuma has made several visits to the Sibaya Casino following his release. He said he had seen him more than once.
Responding to questions relating to the former president’s parole conditions, Singabakho Nxumalo, spokesperson for the Department of Correctional Services, said on Sunday that Zuma made a request to leave his residence to be in another town.
“This was approved by his monitoring official. We can confirm that permission was granted. This is in line with his parole conditions,” said Nxumalo.
Zuma’s release on medical parole had created controversy, and was being challenged by the Helen Suzman Foundation, the DA and AfriForum.