Johannesburg - Former president Jacob Zuma again defended his relationship with the controversial Gupta family at the state capture inquiry, denying he'd done anything "unlawful" with the family and questioning what people found so "wrong" with his relations with them.
Zuma began testifying before the commission, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, on Monday and spent much of the morning detailing his side of the story as well as an alleged systematic attempt to "assassinate" his character.
However, before Zuma could have his turn, his legal representative Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane addressed the commission on some of the issues his client had regarding his appearance before the commission.
Once that was ventilated, Zuma shared his side of the story, tackling several issues in his testimony.
Part of the issues he tackled was his relationship with the controversial family, detailing how he first came to meet them.
"Members of this family were brought to my residence in Oliver Tambo... They were coming from Mahlamba Ndlopfu from [former] president [Thabo] Mbeki. The person who introduced them was Essop Pahad. They were introduced as good businesspeople but they were also comrades.
"That's how some of my family members got to know them... They were also introduced for the second time by some comrades in Gauteng who were praising them... that's how I got to know them."
"With time, because I'd now known them, I got to know even some of the things they do. For example, one of them was a member of an international council that was advising the president on economic things. And I found them to be a very friendly family."
Zuma further revealed that the Guptas knew many ANC members, adding that they were friends with late former statesman Nelson Mandela and Mbeki.
He denied doing anything "unlawful" with the Guptas, insisting that they remained his friends.
"I've wondered why I am accused, why do people think my relationship with them is not right when two other presidents have had relations with him. Why should people think this was one thing to get Zuma?
"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.
The former president detailed his role in the formation of the family's now-defunct newspaper The New Age and TV Channel ANN7, insisting it came from wanting to create an alternative voice in the media industry.
He again spoke of a systematic plan to "get rid" of him through character assassination as well as attempts on his life.
The inquiry continues.IOL