Jacob's ladder: These are the hurdles Jacob Zuma will face at Zondo commission

2019-06-19 06:00
Jacob Zuma. (Felix Dlangamandla)

Jacob Zuma. (Felix Dlangamandla) (Felix Dlangamandla)

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The Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture has pressed former president Jacob Zuma to indicate whether he will be appearing before it, either to cross-examine witnesses or to put forward his side of the story.

A letter penned by the acting secretary of the commission, Peter Pedlar, to Zuma's lawyer, Lugisani (Dan) Mantsha, says: "It has become urgent to know whether your client will appear before the commission on the dates given in our letter of April 30, 2019, as we are now about five weeks away from July 15, 2019.

"We therefore request that your client advises us in writing by no later than Wednesday, June 12, 2019, next week whether he will appear before the commission on those dates."

To date, Zuma's name has been mentioned multiple times throughout the 113 days of testimony. Ministers Pravin Gordhan and Fikile Mbalula, former minister Nhlanhla Nene, former MP Vytjie Mentor and others have laid bare exactly how Zuma created a culture of name-dropping, fraud, corruption and questionable relationships in order to advance state capture.

Here are some of the more explosive passages of testimony against Zuma.  

Nene goes nuclear

Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was the first serving member of Cabinet to testify at the commission.

During his testimony in October 2018, Nene implicated Zuma in the nuclear build programme deal with Russia, during which Nene alleged that Zuma had complete disregard for how it would impact the country financially.

Nene told the commission that during the 2015 Brics summit in Russia, he refused to put his signature on a guarantee for financing a deal for the nuclear build programme with Russia.

"I told President Zuma in the meeting that I could not sign the letter without having first interrogated the financial and fiscal implications and proposed a funding model," he told the commission.

During his testimony, he also said: "Mr Zuma criticised me for not finalising the financial aspects of the proposed nuclear deal with Russia. Mr Zuma said he was not happy that I was not doing what I was supposed to have done a long time ago so that he could have something to present when he meets President [Vladimir] Putin for their one-on-one meeting."

Themba Maseko

Former government spokesperson Themba Maseko was the first to directly implicate Zuma in his testimony in August 2018.

He told the commission that during his time as CEO of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS), Zuma had asked him personally to assist the Guptas in acquiring government advertising for the now-defunct newspaper The New Age.

Maseko said Zuma told him to ensure he met with the Guptas at their Saxonwold compound in Johannesburg and exposed how Zuma lobbied to give government business to the Guptas.

On the day Maseko was to meet with the Guptas regarding what he understood was a new "project" they were setting up, Maseko said he received a call from Zuma also telling him to meet with the Guptas.

Maseko said in his statement: "I was taken aback at the call and wondered whether the Guptas had requested the president to call me to demonstrate their power and influence in the upper echelons of government. However, I avoided jumping to that conclusion and I decided to proceed to the meeting with an open mind."

Maseko said he reported the matter to Frank Chikane, who was director general in the presidency at the time.

Agrizzi spills the beans

Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi dropped bombshell after bombshell during his testimony at the commission, implicating a range of politicians including Zuma.

Agrizzi said Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson gave Zuma a monthly bribe of R300 000, under the guise of donations to the Jacob Zuma Foundation, to derail investigations into the company and to keep the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) at bay.

The bribe was also to institute legislative changes to allow for the Falcon Oil and Gas fracking project in the Karoo.

Agrizzi alleged that a meeting was held in this regard at Zuma's Nkandla homestead with Watson, Falcon Oil CEO Philip O'Quigley and attorney Lizel Oberholzer in 2016.

Vytjie Mentor's Saxonwold scandal

Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor brought attention to the now all too well-known matter of name-dropping Zuma.

Mentor said she had met with the Gupta family at their Saxonwold home, where the Guptas used their relationship with Zuma to achieve state capture and grand corruption. The family allegedly offered Mentor the position of public enterprises minister if she cancelled South African Airways' (SAA) direct route to India.

This was so that the Gupta-linked Jet Airways would benefit instead. If she did this, the Guptas said they would put in a good word with Zuma, according to Mentor, saying "we normally do".

Pravin Gordhan

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan alleged that Zuma personally asked him to grant Dudu Myeni's request to approve an expensive SAA Airbus deal.

While he was reluctant to name Zuma in the beginning, he told Zondo: "In the first instance, the president (Zuma). For example, if you look at [his involvement in] the issue of the banks and the relationship with clients (the Guptas) … pushing the nuclear deal … when you allow particular types to be appointed to boards, when you put particular ministers there to be cooperative … looking back … it means there was a scheme at play designed by someone…"

Gordhan also touched on his North Gauteng High Court application seeking declaratory relief from having to intervene with the banks’ closure of Gupta accounts days before Zuma was to reshuffle his Cabinet, where Gordhan would eventually be sacked.

He told the commission: "One could surmise that the intention was to get rid of us, put in another minister and withdraw the application to the Pretoria High Court."

Gordhan went so far as to single out Zuma as the person who "misled, lied, manipulated and abused" South Africa to the benefit of state capture.

Zuma: deny, deny, deny

Despite the blatant implication of Zuma in these shocking testimonies, he has gone on record as saying no evidence has been presented to implicate him or prove his Gupta connection.

He also maintained, on SABC's Leading Citizens, that he had led with honesty as president, denying any wrongdoing.

Regardless, utterances which have been more than abundant during the inquiry into state capture have been met with elusiveness and stubbornness from the former president.

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