WRAP, DAY 1: Masina calls state capture inquiry 'an embarrassment' as Jacob Zuma camp regroups

15 July 2019 - 05:57 By Amil Umraw and ZINGISA MVUMVU
Former president Jacob Zuma, surrounded by his allies, addressed a crowd of supporters after his first day of evidence at the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture in Parktown, Johannesburg, July 15 2019
Former president Jacob Zuma, surrounded by his allies, addressed a crowd of supporters after his first day of evidence at the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture in Parktown, Johannesburg, July 15 2019
Image: Alon Skuy/Sunday Times

ANC Ekurhuleni chairman and the city's executive mayor Mzwandile Masina on Monday took a swipe at the Zondo commission, calling it "an embarrassment".

Masina was speaking at a rally in Parktown, Johannesburg, following former president Jacob Zuma's inaugural appearance before the commission of inquiry into state capture. Also on the podium with Zuma were Supra Mahumapelo from the North West, former communications minister Faith Muthambi and Des van Rooyen, who had a controversial brief stint as finance minister.

Masina said the commission was too incompetent for the taxpayers' money paid to fund its day-to-day operations.

"We are here as peace-loving South Africans who fought for democracy and justice to support our former leader comrade, Jacob Zuma, who has agreed with the commission to appear before them," said Masina.

"And we have seen how disorganised that commission is. They are an embarrassment to the money we are spending in that commission. We must send a strong message.

"We have confidence in the commission, but they cannot serve papers on time [and] they hijack people in the platform to speak about things that they have not seen - including asking our leaders to speak about administrative things. We must say shame on that commission." 

Masina was addressing a crowd of Zuma supporters in a park near the commission venue, before Mahumapelo took to the stage to also sing the praises of Zuma.

Mahumapelo launched a long-winded praise-singing monologue about what he called Zuma's "achievements" during the "so-called nine wasted years" as head of state.

Among those, claimed Mahumapelo, was an infrastructure rollout amounting to more than R1-trillion, saying it was "the first time" in the history of our country.

He then went gung-ho about Zuma improving life-expectancy in the country and expanding the distribution of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) distribution following the era of so-called "Mbeki denialism" on Aids. 

Mahumapelo said that the ANC tripartite alliance, including the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the SA Communist Party, was "more united than ever" under Zuma. 

"That is the truth and there is no truth that is more than that truth, that under Msholozi (Zuma), South Africa became better than ever was before," said Mahumapelo.

Zuma, taking to the stage, repeated most of what he had said inside the commission earlier about a "conspiracy to finish me" by foreign intelligence agencies that he said he will not name now as that is his trump card.

He lobbied his supporters to "remain in the trenches" saying the ANC was under attack, hinting that he will spill more beans in the coming days. 

"You cannot kill the ANC easily, it is a big organisation that carries the future of this country but I thought it was important to explain why I have been a subject of attacks," said Zuma.

"Our organisation is at a critical moment in its history and not long this moment will be unveiled so we should remain in our trenches to defend the ANC.

"We now have modern askaris (sellouts) who kill with poison and do not shoot with an AK47 and we need to be aware that freedom is not complete, but I will say more on Friday or before, but now I am still discussing inside the commission." 

Zuma challenged to take lie detector test by ex-minister 

Earlier on Monday, Zuma attempted to discredit a former minister who testified against him at the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, by accusing him of being a spy.

Ngoaka Ramatholdi, a former mineral resources minister, public service and administration minister and deputy correctional services minister, immediately challenged Zuma to a lie-detector test.

"The commission should invite a professional who must test us, me and him. I want to go for a lie-detector test before the commission," Ramatholdi told TimesLIVE.

Ramatholdi last year testified that Zuma had auctioned executive authority to the Guptas.

He also said they had advised Zuma to cut off his relationship with that family. 

Zuma made the startling claim against Ramatholdi while testifying at the state capture inquiry on Monday.

LISTEN | Day 1 - Zuma's conspiracy theory

Earlier Zuma described to the commission what he believed to be an almost 30-year "character assassination" plot against him, which he said had been begun in the 1990s by three intelligence agencies. Zuma claimed these agencies did not want him to ascend to leadership because he had information on spies in the ANC.

Because he was a "disciplined" member of the ANC, he did not reveal the information. However, Zuma said this of Ramatlhodi: “What made comrade Ngoako to behave the way he did here, saying that I have auctioned the country?

"He’s carrying out an instruction. [He] was recruited while he was a student in Lesotho to be a spy," Zuma said. "I’ve known for many years what he is but I have never shown it because I thought he will change."

Zuma also issued a warning to those who were "provoking" him.

"I want peace, I want harmony and that is why even those who have done things to me I am not feeling bitter about. But some of them had even collected information and gave [it] to a writer to write books about me. Maybe at some point in the discussions here I might come back to this issue," he said.

"It’s important for you to realise that some of the things you are dealing with are very big and very deep and it is important to know that there is a plan that is being implemented against Zuma."

Why would Zuma have appointed a 'spy' into his cabinet?

On Monday afternoon, Ramathlodi said Zuma was lying under oath. He denied ever working with apartheid authorities.

He also questioned why, if true, Zuma would have appointed him as both a deputy minister and minister in his cabinet.

"I am even his friend. We are friends. How can he be friends with spies?" Ramatholdi said.

Ramathlodi said Zuma never raised the matter with him before. 

"We worked so closely together so I don’t know (how he could work with a spy)." he said.

After the ANC’s unbanning, Ramathlodi was a speech writer for former ANC president Oliver Tambo.

He was then appointed premier of Limpopo.

Ramathlodi was a vocal Zuma supporter and led the charge for former president Thabo Mbeki’s removal from office in 2008. He served in Zuma’s cabinet in two portfolios, mineral resources and public services and administration before he was fired in 2017.

'Suicidal bombers' planned to murder Zuma at maskandi music event - Claim

Zuma, on his first day of testimony on Monday, told the commission his life was under threat.

A recent attempt, he said, was at a music concert in Durban. "Just recently there was a function in Durban where the maskandis wanted to fill the stadium. Some of those people planned to murder me inside the stadium.

"I know them. They planned to murder me. What saved my life is because I did not go there. This is an attempt on my life. There’s been people sent from outside the country to come and kill me but I have been patient, not saying a thing," Zuma said.

"Perhaps it is important that before I die, I tell the story.

"The plan to kill me in Durban was very detailed. It involved people who are suicidal bombers from outside. For me the matter is bigger than it meets the eye."

Zuma said the plan to kill him was part of the bigger plan to totally eliminate him from the country’s political space. "The critical point is that the plan made years ago has been working and our enemy has recruited more that it was during the struggle … It is some of them who influence that there should be this commission to bury Zuma."

Denial: Gupta brothers did not advise Zuma on cabinet appointments

Contrary to evidence by other witnesses, Zuma denied that the Gupta family ever dictated to him whom to appoint or fire from his cabinet.

"Never did I discuss anything that does not belong to them. I’m told they were appointing ministers, where do they come in?

"Was I not capable of doing my work that I needed their assistance?" he asked.

Two former presidents were acquainted with Guptas

Zuma admitted that he had suggested to the Gupta family that they start "progressive" new media platforms in SA.

He said the Gupta-owned media companies, The New Age newspaper and the ANN7 television channel, were in fact his ideas.  

Former president Jacob Zuma at the state capture inquiry, where he is testifying, in Parktown, Johannesburg, on July 15 2019.
Former president Jacob Zuma at the state capture inquiry, where he is testifying, in Parktown, Johannesburg, on July 15 2019.
Image: Alon Skuy/Sunday Times

He was describing to deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo his relationship with the controversial business family that has been accused of state capture.

"Many people have criticised me, even in my own organisation, and I’ve explained in proper settings of the organisation and some people just don’t want to take it.

"Members of this family were first brought to my residence at Oliver Tambo House when I was deputy president. They were coming from Mahlamba Ndlopfu, they were coming from (Zuma's predecessor as president, Thabo) Mbeki," he said.  

"They were introduced by Essop Pahad. They were introduced for the second time by some comrades in Gauteng.

"With time, because I had now known them, I got to know some of the things they do …They were indeed, they knew a lot of comrades, and I got to know that in fact when (late statesman Nelson) Mandela was president, they started being very close and they were a friend of Mandela and when he was gone, they were friends with Thabo Mbeki.

"I never did anything with them unlawfully or whatever.

"They just remained friends as they were friends to everyone else … Everything that happens is sort of associated with me."

In a clear reference to the controversy around the landing of the Gupta wedding guest aircraft at Waterkloof air force base in Pretoria, Zuma said: "I did not know where they were going to land, or if there was a landing that was going to happen on a particular day."

New Age and ANN7 were Zuma's idea

Zuma claimed SA media were "very biased" and there was no "alternative voice".

"If people could complain and say I abused them (the Guptas), that one I could plead guilty. I then one day having known that we have been trying to have businesses that are progressive, in trying to have a media that is alternative, I then said to them making a suggestion that 'can you try a media business because we are comrades? We need an alternative voice. Is it possible that you could establish a newspaper?'," Zuma said.

"They had never thought of the idea. They finally said, 'I think it's a good idea.' They came back to say now they decided they wanted to establish a newspaper …

"Once they agreed, I then thought it would be important for me to make one person aware of this, Gwede Mantashe (ANC national chairperson), I said I have talked to this comrade for them to do their business and they seem to be warm to the idea. I also informed the DSG (Jessie Duarte) about this."

Former president Jacob Zuma, who has been central to allegations of state capture, will address the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture when he appears on July 15 2019, and could name those he accuses of using the platform to discredit him.

Zuma admitted that he had even suggested the name for the newspaper.

"When they were moving forward they then said, 'can you help give us a name? We don’t know what to call this newspaper.' They loved this name The New Age and that's how the paper was named. They established the newspaper, started work, we were very happy," he said.  

"When this paper was operating, I then said to them this is very successful, what about a TV channel? I suggested the paper to them, I suggested the TV channel … I know that people who had problems had a lot to say about this. I thought it was a very good thing that they did, there was no law broken there ... This was a normal kind of interaction.

"Indeed, the ANN7 brought a fresh air in the country in terms of reporting, in terms of putting across progressive ideas.  

"They worked with my son and there was absolutely no problem. I was waiting to hear what is it that they have done wrong."

Zuma briefed Magashule ahead of Monday's testimony: ANC

Earlier, the ANC said in a statement issued during Zuma's testimony that the former president had briefed ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule about his appearance before the inquiry .

The party said Zuma had visited Luthuli House on Friday to formally brief Magashule.

The organisation viewed his visit as courteous and exemplary. It did not get into the details of the meeting in the statement it issued.

The ANC has appealed to South Africans who have information that can help the commission to avail themselves and present relevant information to the inquiry.

"The ANC has consistently called on its members and leaders to cooperate fully with the commission and to assist the commission in its work. The commission was set up at the insistence of our organisation and other South Africans who are committed to ethical conduct in both the public and private spheres," the statement read.

'Leave JZ alone"

Supporters of the former president came in their numbers to support him at the inquiry.

"We want these people to keep their hands off Zuma and leave him alone. Whatever Zuma says is right and he is innocent. His role must always be protected," Lehana Moleko said at the Pieter Roos Park in Parktown. Moleko travelled from Virginia in the Free State to support Zuma.

Many of the devoted Zuma supporters were clad in yellow t-shirts with the words "Wenzeni u Zuma (What has Zuma done?)" written on them.

The crowd sang struggles songs as they waited for Zuma, in the expectation that he would address them later in the day. In the afternoon, they moved from the park to the front of the Hill on Empire building where the state capture inquiry is sitting.

Jay Molefe said they were "sick and tired" of the prosecution that Zuma was "going through". 

He told TimesLIVE: "We came here (to support him). We say enough is enough. You don't call him the former president, he is our president and still our commander."

Zuma claims 3 intelligence agencies in conspiracy against him

During Monday's proceedings, Zuma claimed that he had been a victim of a three-decade conspiracy which included foreign intelligence organisations aimed at blocking him from rising to power.

Zuma began with a lengthy opening statement which addressed all the major scandals levelled against him: the arms deal case, the upgrades to his Nkandla homestead and, most recently, allegations of state capture and his relationship with the Gupta family.

But the former president blamed it all on "a huge plan" to have him removed from power.

He said that as the ANC's chief of intelligence in the early 1990s, he received a report saying there were three intelligence organisations - two foreign and one local - that had met and plotted "a process of character assassination against Zuma".

Zuma said this was done because he had information on spies within the ANC.

Indirectly quoting a report he received, Zuma said: "There are spies in his organisation whom we want to nurture that they grow within the structure of the ANC to the point in some time where they will lead the agency. Now Zuma has information about these people. That is why the character assassination began."

He said: "There was a plan to deal with Zuma and Zuma has been dealt with all the time …It is important for me to state that anything that happened since that time, I have been linking the dots all the time."

Speaking on the arms deal matter, which Zuma is currently fighting in court, he said he had received information that if he resigned from the ANC's leadership at the time and returned home to Nkandla, he would "be looked after".

"There was a rumour I would be given something like R20m if I resigned. The issue of Zuma must resign, Zuma must leave the leadership started way back as part of this plan. Of course, I did not resign. That was followed by a decision to remove me as deputy president," he said.

"But shortly thereafter I was brought back by the membership of the ANC. We were also approaching another conference, which was in Polokwane where there was, as usual, contestation. That’s where I became the president. But there were a lot of activities going on at the time and discussions about me in particular. Later I got to know that there was a determination to arrest me before the conference."

He said the spy tapes saga was part of the alleged plot.

"The National Prosecuting Authority was confronted by the tapes which indicated they had been conspiring to charge me to an extent that when the head of the NPA at the time came to know about these tapes, decided to withdraw these charges and therefore had no case against me then," he said.

"Not because of anything but because the plan to character assassinate Zuma, the plan to remove Zuma from leadership, that he should be out because if he is there he will use the information to either expose or stop our people from going forward."

Zuma then moved on to Nkandla.

"When I was building my home at Nkandla problems arose there about corruption. The media in this country mentioned the figure of the money I have squandered. There were two structures of government that investigated and they found nothing on Zuma. Of course, after the two institutions investigated, the former public protector (Thuli Madonsela) also came in to do her own investigation because people wanted to find something. She found nothing," he said.

"She decided to say that additional security matters in my homestead ... the public protector recommended that I should pay for those because I indirectly benefited. No other president has been made to do so."

Lastly, Zuma brought up allegations of state capture, saying it was an "exaggeration".

"I thought the state in the main is composed of three arms: parliament, the judiciary and the executive. But the commission is not meant to investigate these three but it is called the state capture. The matters dealt with are general corruption matters … Whoever knew the Gupta family or they were friends, they don’t matter, but Zuma matters," he said.

"I’ve had a problem that this is not said that this is a commission for corruption, why do you call it state capture? Does it mean the judges are captured? Is government captured? Is parliament captured? ... It’s an exaggeration. It is meant to enhance this narrative against Zuma."

Earlier in his opening address,  Zuma asserted the state capture inquiry had been set up for one reason and one reason only – to vilify him.

Taking the stand before Zondo, he said: "You will realise that me as an individual, I’ve been a subject of talk in this country for more than a decade.

"I’ve been vilified, alleged to be the king of corrupt people. I’m the most corrupt. I’ve been given every other name and I’d never responded to those issues," Zuma told a room full of journalists, supporters and members of the public.

"Firstly, because I believe it is important that we all respect one another, that we must say things we know about other people ... not just tell things we know we cannot prove. This has been my nature as I grew up and I joined the ANC in my early age."

He said his testimony would deal with how the commission was conceived after former public protector Thuli Madonsela recommended in her State of Capture report that an inquiry into fraud and corruption be held.   

"When this commission was proposed or a recommendation was made that I should establish a commission by the previous public protector, there were certain issues in which I was not happy in the manner in which they were handled ... This commission, from my understanding, was really created to have me come in here and perhaps to find things on me. I will deal with how it was conceived," he said.  

"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 perhaps it is important that I deal with [it] in this commission.

"It arises out of 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 done or said. It has come in different forms and that is why there are even people who say I’ve got a way of trying to dodge things in one form or another. I’m going to connect the dots over a decade that talk to this point."

Proceedings started with Zuma's lawyer, Muzi Sikhakhane, saying his client was appearing "with reservations".

"I’ve brought him here to you with reservations with how he is being called."

When Zuma arrived, his supporters chanted his name before a hush swept over the room, with only sounds from cameras being heard. Zondo then entered the room.

Zondo began with a short opening statement before his evidence leader, advocate Paul Pretorius, started leading Zuma's evidence.

"The commission is not mandated to prove any case against anybody but it is mandated to investigate and inquire into certain allegations and, as I have indicated, it invites everyone who has information or knowledge of matters that fall under its terms of reference to make that information available to it," said Zondo.

"The former president, in appearing before the commission this week, is expected to deal with various matters in respect of which certain witnesses who have been identified and have submitted statements before the commission and given evidence."

Zondo said it might be necessary to ask Zuma to appear again later.

"It is possible that, although we have set aside five days this week for the evidence of the former president, it is possible that we might not use all five days," he said.

Zuma and some family members, including his son Duduzane, arrived at the Hill on Empire building in Parktown, Johannesburg, in a convoy of luxury cars.

Outside the building, ANC spokesperson Dakota Legoete said it was commendable for Zuma to appear before the inquiry.

“As we have said before, all members of the ANC, irrespective of your profile, all of us must cooperate with the commission, we must support the work of the commission and we think for the former president to be here, it’s part of respecting processes and systems and the rule of law,” said Legoete.

Legoete added: “We are here to show confidence to the process and the commission of inquiry of the Zondo commission as well as to support one of our members. Obviously for him to appear in the commission it’s a serious matter and we have to respect the processes and rule of law.”

BLF president Andile Mgxitama told reporters outside the venue: "We're here to support Jacob Zuma> This is a political attack because he supports radical economic transformation, free education ..."

Mgxitama accused the commission of being an "attack against black people".

"Where is white corruption? They are only using this commission to settle political scores against those who believe in radical economic transformation, specifically black people," he said.

Shortly before that, Mngxitama claimed he had been barred from entering the building because he was dressed in BLF regalia.

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Former finance minister Des van Rooyen was among “members of the public” supporting former president Jacob Zuma to arrive early.

Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association leader Kebby Maphatsoe and Carl Niehaus, a spokesperson for the MK vets, were also among the early arrivals at the Parktown venue. Niehaus was wearing a suit, not the military gear he often chooses for public appearances.

Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene on December 9 2015 and replaced him with the then little-known ANC backbencher Van Rooyen. The rand crashed 2.5% on the pound, and 1.39% on the dollar after Nene’s removal was announced. Van Rooyen was finance minister for four days until Zuma reportedly caved in to pressure from some ANC members and returned Pravin Gordhan to the position.

Asked if he thought Zuma had a case to answer, Van Rooyen said: "Allegations have been made, so Mr Zuma will definitely clarify his side of the story."

Law-enforcement personnel gathered in large numbers for Zuma's first appearance before the inquiry.

Security has been ramped up as both his supporters and detractors were expected to stage demonstrations outside the venue.

Police nyalas, a water cannon, police and metro police are maintaining a vigil in the streets and outside the building.

The area has been cordoned off, while officers direct traffic. All has been orderly so far.

Motorists are being stopped and questioned about where they are heading before being allowed through.

Several media houses have also set up cameras outside.

Zuma has denied involvement in state capture, but has been implicated directly by a number of key witnesses who have appeared before the commission.

The former president stands accused of having abused his executive powers by making decisions that allowed various government departments and state institutions to be repurposed and looted during his nine years in office.

- Additional reporting by Iavan Pijoos, Qaanitah Hunter, Andisiwe Makinana, Penwell Dlamini and Nonkululeko Njili


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