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South Africa’s ex-president Zuma bemoans ‘conspiracy to eliminate him’

South Africa’s ex-president, Jacob Zuma is now defending himself at the commision of inquiry into state capture, where he is accused of having presided over a corrupt government.

Over the past year, this commission, chaired by the Vice-President of the Constitutional Court Raymond Zondo, has heard from dozens of ministers, elected officials, businessmen and senior civil servants who have come to expose the shady cases of the Zuma era (2009-2018).

The former head of state, 77, is suspected of illegally granting lucrative public contracts and undue advantages to a sulfurous family of Indian businessmen with whom he is close, the Gupta.

Zuma’s testimony

Zuma told the inquiry 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.”

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Jacob Zuma was forced by his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, to resign a year and a half ago at the head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the country.

But he has always denied that he was involved in all the scandals that have splashed his reign.

Reservations from Zuma’s lawyers

In a letter made public last month, his lawyer Daniel Mantsha questioned the impartiality of the commission of inquiry by accusing it of seeking “only one truth” and wanting to “trap and humiliate” his client.

Although he did not obtain the list of questions that Judge Zondo plans to ask him, Jacob Zuma agreed to respond to his non-binding summons, in principle until Friday, July 19. But there is still doubt about the attitude he will adopt at the hearing, which will be broadcast live on television.

“The committee asked me to come and testify and provide it with any information I may have in my possession,” Zuma told the press this week. “I’m going to go and we’ll see how things turn out.”

The case against Zuma

Since it launched its hearings, the Zondo Commission has compiled a thick case against the former president.

A former minister, Mcebisi Jonas, came to tell how the Gupta brothers had come to offer him in 2015 the morocco Finance in exchange for his help in obtaining contracts and a bribe of 600 million rand (nearly 40 million euros).

According to Mr. Jonas, Ajay Gupta then told that “You have to understand that we control everything (…) and that the old man (Zuma) will do whatever he tells us to do”.

Another Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene, testified that he was thanked the same year by Jacob Zuma for refusing a lucrative nuclear contract project that would have benefited the same Gupta brothers, owners of a uranium mine.

In turn, the current Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan also settled his accounts with Jacob Zuma, accusing him of having “allowed a climate of impunity allowing corruption” and the “capture of the State” by private interests.

Gordhan has estimated that 100 billion rand (€6 billion) of public funds have been diverted in recent years in his country.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has been a long-time critic of the turpitudes of the Zuma regime and welcomed its hearing. “There can be no immunity for Jacob Zuma,” said MP Natasha Mazzone, “he must be held accountable for his role in capturing the state.

Despite all the accusations against him, the former president has still not been formally charged. He is currently being prosecuted in only one case involving bribes paid on the margins of an arms contract signed… twenty years ago.


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