JOHANNESBURG – Former South African president Jacob Zuma told a corruption inquiry on Monday that there was a conspiracy against him and that his enemies had subjected him to a “character assassination” because they wanted him out of power.
“This commission, from my understanding, was really created to have me coming here, and perhaps to find things on me,” Zuma said in his opening remarks at the inquiry, looking relaxed and wearing a dark suit. “There has been a drive to remove me from the scene, a wish that I should disappear.”
The former president Jacob Zuma is ready to implicate several persons before the state capture inquiry, his Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane told the Zondo-led commission on Monday.
Sikhakhane raised reservations about the commission’s processes and that his client did not have enough time to prepare ahead of his appearance this week.
“We believe we have not been given an opportunity to prepare Mr Zuma. An injustice can happen because we would have liked to prepare him. I brought him here to you chairperson… he is your guest… he may mention anyone and what do we do with that unfairness? I am handing them over to you and I hope the ones he is going to mention are prepared because he is going to out them,” said Sikhakhane.
The former president arrived at the securely tightened venue with his children, twins Dudu and Duduzane. The first day saw police cordoning off the area as hundreds of supporters are expected to descend in Parktown to lend support to Zuma. A number of Zuma supporters clapped and chanted his name when the former head of State arrived at the commission in Johannesburg.
Earlier, commission chairman Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo thanked Zuma for appearing, and said the commission treats everyone equally, and that Zuma would not be the only leader appearing to state their case.
Several witnesses have implicated him in the massive rent-seeking scandal that defined his nine-year administration.
Among his supporters are MKMVA (uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association) spokesman Carl Niehaus who said the term “state capture” has been abused to fit certain narratives against Zuma. He said Zuma had nothing to do with the hollowing out of the state through state capture corruption.
Zuma’s appearance is set for the whole week. It was preceded by an exchange of correspondence between Zuma’s attorneys and the commission’s legal team over six weeks, during which the commission’s request for a written undertaking from Zuma to appear before it failed. Zondo then set aside five days for the former president.
Zuma, who enjoys extensive support in his KwaZulu-Natal home province, has reiterated publicly that he has done nothing wrong, despite mounting evidence at the inquiry of alleged corruption and state capture while he was president.
He is accused of allowing his friends, the Gupta brothers, among others, to run amok and pocket hundreds of millions of rand in state contracts. The fugitive Guptas hastily left South Africa in 2016 as their leaked emails, dubbed the GuptaLeaks, revealed the extent of the rot perpetuated in the South African government and state-owned enterprises.