On Wednesday I watched with both trepidation and despair the behaviour of some members of the public who were in the Pietermaritzburg regional court to support KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Neliswa "Peggy" Nkonyeni, who was facing fraud charges.
An SABC news bulletin on Wednesday night showed a group of people - identified as Nkonyeni supporters - singing and chanting slogans in court. The group's gripe was that the case against Nkonyeni was part of a political campaign against her.
Nkonyeni is the ANC provincial treasurer and also a member of the party's provincial list committee.
She and her co-accused Lindelihle Mkhwanazi are facing charges of contravening the Corruption Act.
The charges relate to a tender won by Mkhwanazi's company, Rowmoor Investments, to provide a mammogram machine - for scanning for breast cancer.
The state alleges that Nkonyeni colluded with Mkhwanazi to charge the health department R1,5million for a machine which could have been bought for R425000.
If a group of people come to court to give support to an ANC official who they claim is a victim of political persecution, it can only be assumed that those people are members of the ANC.
The group probably has the right to hold its views about Nkonyeni being politically persecuted. Their view most probably arises from their experience about the contests within the ANC in the wake of the compilation of the party's list of future MPs and MPLs.
What is unacceptable is when they deal with these internal contests in a manner that undermines the judicial institutions and processes of this country.
Nkonyeni is facing criminal charges and the laws of this country must apply to prove her either innocent or guilty.
The ANC and its members are expected to understand and respect this process. If they, for reasons known to themselves, feel that Nkonyeni is being unfairly treated in this regard, they must follow the procedures and laws of this country.
This includes ensuring that she is legally represented in court; and then appealing against the decision made by the court if it is deemed to be against the letter and spirit of this country's laws.
Anyone, be it the ANC leadership or its members, who behaves otherwise must be exposed for what they are: power-hungry zealots who hide behind the cloak of political conspiracies to condone graft and corruption within their ranks.
This country cannot afford to have a situation where supporters or members of the ruling party are seen to undermine the rule of law.
The unfortunate reality is that this tendency arises from the manner in which the corruption case against ANC leader Jacob Zuma has been handled. As expected, his supporters will always cite the ruling by Judge Chris Nicholson as an indication of how the National Prosecuting Authority was used to settle political scores.
The reality, however, is that the ruling is being questioned by other members of the legal fraternity.
The ANC should disabuse itself of the tendency to wave the flag of political mischief in the face of anyone who questions the moral rectitude of its leaders.
We agree that Nkonyeni is innocent until proven guilty - but it is also unacceptable for ANC members to pretend that she is innocent.