Dramatic sequel to Zuma 'poison plot' as Abrahams warns MaNtuli: You're still a suspect

13 November 2016 - 02:05 By BONGANI MTHETHWA

NPA boss Shaun Abrahams has dropped another bombshell, telling President Jacob Zuma's estranged fourth wife that she is officially a suspect in an alleged plot to kill her husband.

The national director of public prosecutions revealed this in a letter to Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma's lawyers last month in response to her query about the status of a criminal case that saw her being banned from the president's home in Nkandla.

Ntuli-Zuma, known as MaNtuli, was kicked out of the Zuma homestead in January last year by State Security Minister David Mahlobo, who told her she was being investigated in connection with a plot to poison Zuma.

Since then, her lawyers say, MaNtuli has been battling to clear her name with Mahlobo, the police and the National Prosecuting Authority, none of whom would clarify the status of the investigation.

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Zuma's alleged poisoning apparently took place in June 2014.

On October 17 this year Abrahams responded to a letter from MaNtuli's lawyer, Ulrich Roux : "Please note that I have been advised that your client has been identified as one of the suspects [in the alleged conspiracy to murder Zuma]."

But the chief prosecutor did not say what charges might be brought against MaNtuli or whether the investigation conducted in Nkandla after Mahlobo ordered her to leave had been completed.

MaNtuli was asked to submit a statement in June last year to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the Hawks, in KwaZulu-Natal.

Roux complained to Abrahams that, despite many attempts to discover the status of the matter, he and his client had received no feedback since then.

According to Roux, MaNtuli was charged with attempted murder in April last year but he has received no further communication from the Hawks or the NPA on the progress of the investigation.

Roux told the Sunday Times yesterday: "My client's constitutional rights are being severely infringed upon and yet the head of the NPA, as he has done in other high-profile cases this year, refuses to accept any responsibility and sends a letter to me confirming that my client is regarded as a suspect in the matter.

"It is clear to me that he has no grasp of what is contained in the docket in this matter. In the event that there was any shred of evidence implicating my client in a so-called attempt to kill Jacob Zuma, then why have they not arrested her or brought her before court? The docket was opened more than 18 months ago," said Roux.

block_quotes_start The family has always been concerned that an estranged wife is not good for the image of the president block_quotes_end

Abrahams refused to comment yesterday, saying he does not speak "about ongoing investigations".

NPA spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku said: "The NPA conducts its business within the framework of human rights, and the right to be presumed innocent is a fundamental tenet of our constitutional democracy. We can only communicate our decision to prosecute or not with the person who is a subject of our prosecutorial discretion."

Mahlobo, who could not be reached yesterday as he is abroad, told MaNtuli last year to leave Nkandla and take her three children with her because of "a sensitive matter" his intelligence department was investigating.

MaNtuli has denied any involvement in the alleged plot to kill her husband.

While Zuma's family members said there were discussions in the family to have MaNtuli return to Nkandla and pay reparations, Roux yesterday said she would not do so.

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"My client is not returning to Nkandla. There were no negotiations between the families and no fine of whatever nature will be paid by my client.

"She has in fact made alternative arrangements pertaining to her and the minor children's permanent residence," he said.

Family members said this week that there was supposed to be a meeting last Sunday to discuss MaNtuli's possible return, aimed at reconciling her and Zuma.

But the meeting did not happen because Zuma went to Ethiopia to attend a meeting.

"Yes, there are efforts to normalise the situation as this might be casting a bad spell on his leadership, but nothing is finalised," said a family insider.

block_quotes_start She still goes to Nkandla with her kids and the family still visit the children in Greytown, but as far as I can tell nothing has changed in their frosty relationship block_quotes_end

"The family has always been concerned that an estranged wife is not good for the image of the president. He felt she was wrong and wanted MaNtuli to apologise."

MaNtuli is believed to be living in Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal.

"She still has a house here [at Nkandla] and this is also the home of the children. I do not know where she lives now. Maybe the president knows," said a family member.

MaNtuli's mother, Ntombi Ntuli, declined to comment.

Last year she said she did not know that her daughter was no longer living at Nkandla "because the Zumas have never come to us. So I don't know anything. You must speak to the president and find out what he says about this."

She said she had no idea what was happening in her daughter's marriage.

According to a member of her family, MaNtuli is training to become a pastor and wants to make amends and reconcile with Zuma.

She spends time with her pastor, S'manga Ntuli, for moral support.

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"She's focused on building and launching her spiritual career. She still goes to Nkandla with her kids and the family still visit the children in Greytown, but as far as I can tell nothing has changed in their frosty relationship," said her family member.

MaNtuli still enjoys all her spousal privileges and drives around in an Audi A6 and a Range Rover Sport and is assigned a bodyguard.

The Sunday Times reported last year that MaNtuli had been banned from Nkandla following claims of a plot to poison the president and that suspicion had fallen on her after Zuma fell ill in June 2014.

The poison was reportedly picked up by American doctors during Zuma's trip to the US in August 2014.

He sought a second opinion from Russian doctors a few weeks later when he visited that country.

Presidency spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga said: "The Presidency does not get involved in investigations by law enforcement agencies."

mthethwab@sundaytimes.co.za

- Additional Reporting by Nathi Olifant

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