Former President Jacob Zuma appears on his first day at the Zondo Commission. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - Ex-cabinet minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi was recruited by the apartheid government to become a spy while he was a student in Lesotho, former president Jacob Zuma told the state capture inquiry on Monday.

Ramatlhodi was appointed mineral resources minister in 2014 and was moved to another portfolio the following year before Zuma, the then president, axed him in another cabinet reshuffle. 

The former minister testified before the commission last year, implicating Zuma whom he said he worked with closely and first met in 1986. The former minister was part of a team that helped Zuma during his 2006 rape trial in Johannesburg during which he was acquitted. 

Zuma lambasted Ramatlhodi's testimony against him and labelled allegations that he auctioned the country to the fugitive Gupta family as lies.

"What made comrade Ngoako to behave in the way he did here saying that I auctioned the country? He was carrying out an instruction. Ramatlhodi was recruited when he was a student in Lesotho to be a spy," he said.

He waved a document and said he had a list of people whom he would like to reveal as spies in due time.

Zuma then turned to what he called plots to assassinate him. He told the commission about spies who were doing the "dirty work" of their handlers, singling out a spy named Ralph, who was also known as "Fear" and who operated in Swaziland.

"He was highly trained and caused people's deaths. We finally arrested him and indeed he confessed that he was a spy."

READ NGOAKO RAMATLHODI'S RESPONSE HERE

The former president said he was set to attend a Maskandi music concert in Durban this year, but decided against going after hearing of a plot to kill him it. He elaborated, saying people from outside the country, who included suicide bombers, were sent to kill him but his decision not to attend saved his life. He insisted plans to kill him persisted even though he was no longer president.

Turning to the Gupta family, whom it is alleged he did political favours for, Zuma maintained they were friends and business people he came to know after he became president. He said he was first introduced to the Gupta family by Essop Pahad, the former minister in presidency during Thabo Mbeki's administration.

"I heard that they [Guptas] took good care of their workers...they transported workers to work, cooked for them and transported them back after work. I got to know about their work one as of them was a member of a council that advised the president on economy. I heard that when Madiba was president, they were close and when he was gone, they became very close to Mbeki."

He confirmed that he suggested to the family that they establish a news channel on the back of their "very successful" The New Age newspaper.

"I never did anything illegal with them, they were just friends. My son worked at their company as an IT worker. I wondered why I was accused while their relationship was more stronger with Mbeki...everything that happens is associated with me. I am sure you were listening here when someone said that I gave people permission to land [Gupta private jet at Waterkloof Airbase]. I suggested a lot of things to various persons including people in business. They [Guptas] were just business people... successful business people."

Zuma spent the whole morning presenting his opening statement. Evidence leader Paul Pretorius was set to question Zuma in the afternoon.

African News Agency (ANA)