Johannesburg - Former president Jacob Zuma on Monday told the commission of inquiry into state capture of a decades-long conspiracy to “drive him from the scene” using various methods including character assassination and numerous attempts on his life.
Zuma also dropped a bombshell when he accused billionaire Johann Rupert of threatening to destabilise the economy if Pravin Gordhan was sacked as a minister.
Zuma finally appeared before the commission, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, after months of wrangling between his legal representatives and the commission’s lawyers over his appearance.
His much-awaited appearance saw hundreds of supporters, both notable and ordinary, descend upon the commission’s headquarters to rally behind him.
Zuma meanwhile focused much of the morning on making an opening statement during which he detailed the alleged campaign against him that had its genesis in the 90s while he was the ANC’s head of intelligence.
“There has been a drive to remove me from the scene, a wish that I should disappear and I will explain where it comes from and why it’s important that I deal with it in this commission. It arises out of, perhaps, from my work in the ANC and also because of who I am. This conspiracy against me has been stretched at all material times when there are things to be said and done.
“It has come in different forms and that’s why there are even people who say I’ve got a way of trying to dodge things. I’m going to try and connect the dots over a decade that talk to why I’m here.”
Zuma took the commission through the genesis of this alleged campaign, from his removal as chief of intelligence, to the corruption charges brought against him in connection with the Arms Deal and his removal as South Africa's deputy president in 2005.
Zuma said at the heart of this campaign, allegedly orchestrated by intelligence organisations, one local and linked to the apartheid government, and two foreign intelligence agencies, was the “assassination” of his character and his removal from the ANC because of the information he had.
Zuma told Deputy Chief Justice Zondo that he heard of Rupert’s threat from the current Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, who had attended an event at one of Rupert’s farms.
Zuma said Mbalula told him that at this event Rupert had told Mbalula, who was sport minister at the time, that he informed Zuma that should he remove Gordhan he and others “would shut down the economy” and interfere with the rand.
“Indeed they did interfere with the rand,” Zuma said, telling the commission that one person this year admitted to this. Gordhan, now the Minister of Public Enterprises, was sacked by Zuma in 2017.
The former president also spoke at length about his relationship with the Gupta family, detailing that he met the family through Essop Pahad and denying there was anything unlawful about his relationship with the controversial family or that they had influenced any appointments he had made as president.
“Why do people think my relationship with them is wrong when they’ve had stronger ties with other presidents, particularly [former president Thabo] Mbeki?
“Everything that happens is sort of associated with me. I’ve been given names that I allowed these people to land at national [key] points in South Africa. No one has ever asked me ‘did you do so’ or is there any information to that effect because it never happened, I did not know whether there was a landing [that] happened on a particular day,” Zuma said.
“I never did any other thing to break the law with this family. They were businesspeople and successful. They knew a lot of people in the ANC.”
Zuma continues testifying on Tuesday.IOL