The new tell-all YouTube channel launched this week by former president Jacob Zuma and his son Duduzane has been described as a “mere smokescreen and public relations diversion meant to gain public sympathy given the looming arms deal corruption trial set to be faced by the former president in June”.
Jacob Zuma and his son made headlines after posting two intimate videos on YouTube titled Zooming with Zuma, in which the pair discusses a range of topics.
Among the controversial issues was the death of Duduzane’s mother, Kate Zuma, and the allegation that Reverend Frank Chikane may have played a role in leaking her suicide note to the media.
Speaking to City Press, Chikane said he did not want to be drawn into rehashing an unfortunate incident that occurred more than 20 years ago.
He chose to only say: “My submissions at the inquest that followed the suicide should suffice in terms of shedding light on what truly happened. I will not be drawn into trying to justify myself now because a young man, who was 15 or 16 at the time, has decided to distort what truly happened.”
However, a person with intimate knowledge of the issue said: “Chikane was called by Kate Zuma because she trusted him. She is the one who asked Duduzane Zuma to open the drawer and hand the letter to him. Mind you, he was not called in as the director-general in the presidency, but as a trusted pastor by Kate Zuma. There was no wrestling for the letter as now suggested in the video by the younger Zuma.”
This came after Duduzane opened up in the first instalment of the conversations about his mother’s suicide and hinted at who may have leaked the note to the media.
“Reverend Frank Chikane walked in, I’m not sure if you remember. He must have been minister in the presidency ... He walked in and obviously he is known to the family ... I remember he grabbed my shoulder and was like: ‘Yo, chill, you’ll be fine. We’re dealing with the situation.’ I’m confused, as any youngster would be, and I remember he took the note. We almost had a little arm-wrestle match for the note. The last time I saw that note was when he took it from my hands. This is something that, until today, feels like yesterday. It’s traumatic ... Over time, we all deal with things differently.”
The source challenged this version of events, particularly the implication by Duduzane that Chikane leaked the suicide note to the media.
“This is malicious and untrue. The letter was later handed over to Jacob Zuma by Chikane, and later submitted to the inquest launched in 2001 investigating the December 8 2000 death.
“All this was then made public and this is how the letter found its way to the media. In the video, Jacob Zuma and son make it seem like the letter was leaked immediately after the death, which is not so. It only found its way to some media outlets following its submission to the inquest months after the death,” said the source.
Duduzane Zuma’s twin sister, Duduzile Zuma, took to Twitter as well and defended her brother, saying: “My mother left a suicide note in 2000. My brother had it in his hand. A little tug of war occurs between him and a comrade. Note taken by the comrade. Note returned three days later. What happened with that letter in those three days? Maybe a copy was made?”
She added that, “in 2007, the note is leaked to the media”, which was the same year when the ANC was to hold its elective conference in Polokwane. At the time, Jacob Zuma was the frontrunner to become ANC president.
Responding to the allegations on Twitter, Chikane said: “As a matter of respect for Mama Comrade Kate Mantsho Zuma, I have decided not to respond to falsehoods about the suicide note. Comrade Jacob Zuma should take responsibility to correct his son because he knows the truth. I hope he has done so, or will still do it.”
The source speaking to City Press questioned “why Zuma and his son only raised the alleged leaking of the letter. Why do they not recall the unfortunate death, the contents of the letter and the pain suffered by the victim that led to her taking her own life?
“The pair wants to dwell on the alleged betrayal. Firstly, why would a father record and share with the world such a sensitive topic if he was genuinely discussing it with his son? This is all a smokescreen and diversion tactic. It’s public relations, given the looming trial. He is trying to garner sympathy.”
While Chikane refused to be drawn into responding to the allegations, the source, who spoke to City Press, gave clarity on how the letter may have landed in the hands of the media.
“If you remember correctly, the police initially investigated the matter as though it was a murder case, and ignored what the victim had told Chikane, as well as the written suicide note.
“Beyond this, Chikane faced serious scrutiny and criticism from some sectors in the ANC, which accused him of leaking the letter and betraying Zuma.
“What they forgot was that he had consulted with the same Zuma and advised the then deputy president to share the letter with the police so as to stop the investigation that seemed to be deviating and focusing on him being a [murder] suspect,” said the source.
When asked why these allegations were being made now, Chikane said that, as far as he was aware, he had never had any personal disagreements with Zuma and his family, and did not understand what led to the utterances.
The inquest into the suicide revealed that Kate Zuma died as a result of an overdose of chloroquine – an anti-malaria drug that was found in her bloodstream.