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Zuma's brother makes dramatic plea: Quit now or risk being killed

25 September 2016 - 02:05 By BONGANI MTHETHWA and NATHI OLIFANT

President Jacob Zuma's brother is so anxious about growing public anger against the president that he believes the ANC leader should quit politics - or risk being killed.

Michael Zuma and his wife Thembekile MaXulu Zuma spoke to the Sunday Times this week at their home in Nkandla, where they expressed their fears for the president's life amid growing calls for him to step down.

"My brother is having a very difficult time and I have never seen such difficulty. My brother has such difficulty in such a way that you fear that they are going to kill him," said Michael.

His wife added that some members of the family thought that if Zuma resigned and returned home to Nkandla he would "be safe from these enemies".


She said: "We fear for his life. As a family we sometimes think that they are going to kill him. And in our humble view we tell ourselves that maybe if he comes back home he will be away from them.

"We're scared because he is among them."

Zuma has not spoken to his family about calls for him to be recalled or to resign after the many scandals affecting his presidency.

The president was the subject of a damning Constitutional Court ruling that he had failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution in his handling of the public protector's report on the R246-million upgrades at his private Nkandla residence that were partly paid for with public money.

He has also taken flak because of the ANC's disastrous performance in last month's local government elections and allegations that his friends, the Gupta family, had a hand in his cabinet appointments. These appointments are now the subject of another probe by the public protector.

In parliament this month Zuma claimed he was being "abused" after opposition MPs roasted him for his failures.

His nemesis, EFF leader Julius Malema, told the National Assembly that Zuma was a "criminal of note" who was single-handedly destroying South Africa.

A few weeks earlier leading ANC figure and businessman Sipho Pityana laid into Zuma at the funeral of former government minister Makhenkesi Stofile.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and other cabinet members attended the high-profile event at which Pityana made a public appeal for Zuma to step down, saying the ANC was in crisis.

block_quotes_start I know him as a very good person. He is good with people and he likes them very much. I don't know what we can do about [attacks on Zuma] block_quotes_end

The speech was followed by more calls for Zuma to step down.

Neal Froneman, the head of Sibanye Gold, the biggest gold producer in South Africa, told the media at a mining conference in the US that "Zuma has to go".

This week the Daily Telegraph in London ran a story about the mounting pressure on Zuma.

It quoted ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as saying: "We cannot pretend we do not have problems, we cannot pretend things are not wrong in our country."

Michael Zuma and his wife said the family wereconcerned about the way Zuma was being treated.

"We're very concerned about the way they have mistreated him about his home and we feel like he has been robbed by being made to pay some money," said MaXulu.

Two weeks ago, Zuma paid back the R7.8-million he was deemed to owe the South African taxpayer for work done on his private home.


MaXulu questioned why Zuma was still being criticised after he had paid back the money.

She said the public had no right to know where he had got the money and how he repaid it.

"If you had borrowed R100 from someone, why would they ask you where you got it from? Even this money that he has paid ... maybe he paid it because he was avoiding the noise," she said.

Asked to comment on the family's fears for the president's safety, State Security Minister David Mahlobo said he was not aware of the matter.

Mahlobo said he tried to get hold of Michael after he was alerted by the Sunday Times of the matter. "I couldn't get hold of him. No other family member I have spoken to knows about this. We are not aware of any security threat. As far as we are aware the president's security team is sufficient."

block_quotes_start What we think as a family is that if he can come back home maybe he can be safe from his enemies. We fear for his life  block_quotes_end

Mahlobo said the government could act if the family had not formally reported the matter. "Anyway, we can't discuss security threats in public."

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe declined to be drawn into the matter and said "it's a family issue".

Michael defended his brother's character.

"I know him as a very good person. He is good with people and he likes them very much. I don't know what we can do about [attacks on Zuma]," he said.

The couple said family members had reported having disturbing visions.

Michael said he had been "scared" about a dream his nephew and other family members had had about his late son, Soka, who died last year after a long illness. In the dream they saw Soka standing outside the family kraal.

Michael said the feeling of foreboding had grown worse after the recent visit of five pastors from East London to Nkandla.

They had come to see the president but arrived a day after Zuma left Nkandla.


The pastors wanted to convey a message to him about a "vision" they had had about Nelson Mandela.

Michael said the vision related to a speech Mandela made in the early '90s that reflected what was happening in Zuma's life.

Before he could elaborate on the meaning of the vision, MaXulu cut in and said the family could not reveal this until they had spoken to the president.

MaXulu stopped the interview with the Sunday Times, saying Zuma had warned them against speaking to the media as it had previously caused divisions within the family.

But she stressed that Zuma was being unfairly targeted.

"Ubaba is being mistreated - and that we can say without any hesitation," she said.

Michael and his wife said they were not aware of rumours that the ANC had taken a decision that Zuma would be gone before Christmas.

"What we think as a family is that if he can come back home maybe he can be safe from his enemies. We fear for his life."

Zuma's son Edward yesterday refused to be drawn on his uncle's remarks. He said he respected his uncle as an elder, but denied any knowledge of the family wanting Zuma to resign. His father "cannot retire because the organisation needs him. He cannot take a pension ... All previous leaders have gone on pension and are living comfortably but he's the only reliable person ... serving".

mthethwab@sundaytimes.co.za, olifantn@sundaytimes.co.za