'I've been vilified as the most corrupt': Read the full transcript of Zuma's opening statement at Zondo

Former South African president Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg, where he faces tough questioning over allegations that he oversaw systematic looting of state funds while in power. (Wikus de Wet, AFP)
Former South African president Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg, where he faces tough questioning over allegations that he oversaw systematic looting of state funds while in power. (Wikus de Wet, AFP)

Thank you very much, chairperson and of course the entire commission. Firstly, chair, I've got some flu, so my voice is up and down.

[Zondo: I had flu from Thursday but I think I'm fine now.]

Chair, you'll realise that me as an individual, I've been a subject in this country for more than a decade, I've been vilified, alleged to be the king of corrupt people. I'm the most the corrupt. I've been given every other name and I've never responded to those issues. 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 that we cannot prove.

This has been my nature as I grew up and I joined the ANC in my early age in addition to the teachings of my own homestead and my parents I also got taught in the ANC to behave in a particular way. And I have paid for my activities in the ANC including going to prison serving 10 years. At some point I left my country to go out and in the process the ANC gave me different responsibilities. At all material times that I had been active and participating then finding myself finally in the leadership of the ANC.

The reason why I am starting here, chair, is because when this commission was proposed or a recommendation was made that I should establish a commission by the Public Protector, the previous one, there are certain issues that I was not happy about the manner they were handled. And of course the commission must deal with an important point. But as I will indicate, part of the reason why I'm here, that's the background I'm going to deal with, why I find myself sitting here today… and where it comes from. Particularly because this commission from my understanding was really created to have me coming here. And perhaps to find things on me. I will deal with how it was conceived and therefore made the commission to what it is.

Because the ANC gave me tasks, perhaps I had to know things that other people might not have known. And the question is how did I handle those and I was taught how to handle them. That is why, in the background that I'm going to give, I would strengthen the point I am making… [coughs]… sorry. Umkhuhlane uyangivimbela ekukhulu.

[Zondo: It means the flu is preventing me from speaking.]

There's been a drive to remove me from the scene. A wish that I would disappear and I will explain where it comes from and why, perhaps it is important that I deal with in this commission, and it arises out of perhaps 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's why there are even people who say I've got the way of trying to dodge things in one form or the other. And I'm going to connect the dots over a decade that talk to this point and talk to why I'm here.

As you know in 1990 the ANC was unbanned and I was one of those who was sent ahead of everyone to make contact with the then government to study the process of finding a solution in this country. People referred to it as talks about talks. I then became part of the negotiating team and we finally reached a point where those who were in prison were out, those who were in exile came back. At that time, my specific task among many was to be the chief of intelligence of the African National Congress. In other words, I was part of the leadership at that very sensitive area with my late comrade Joe Nhlanhla.

Leaving many things, just to go to the point straight, starting in 1990 when we were already inside the country, I received a report, an intelligence report, which was saying there were three intelligence organisations that met, had a meeting, to discuss me and had a plan to begin in 1990 a process of character assassination of Zuma. Two of these organisations came from two different big countries, and one of them came from inside South Africa under the... which was one of the structures under apartheid, which was a part of this conspiracy. When I received this report, I had a discussion with my colleague, Nhlanhla. We did not know what is the reason. We were very keen to hear why must Zuma's character be assassinated. I then used the knowledge we had to ask this question and get an answer. But those who would be receiving the question and giving the answer should not know that this question comes from me. Because we had people in the intelligence that had a lot of networkings and networks as well as people dealing with different things.

So we sent the question. After a brief period the answer came back. The answer was, the reason why we wanted to character assassinate Zuma's character was because he has a lot of information that he holds, among the type of information as a chief of intelligence. There are spies that are infiltrated by us in his organisation whom we want to nurture that they grow within the structures of the ANC to a point that at some point they will have to lead the ANC. Now Zuma has information about these. We don't know when will he use this information to stop that process, that plan of theirs and therefore they took a decision that Zuma must be removed from decision making structures of the ANC. And that's why the character assassination began.

That's the beginning of the process that has put me where I am today. And I thought it was important to go through this, whatever else would be the end of your process, but at least some truth should be known.

We handled this very delicately, those who were dealing with intelligence. But we were now aware. There was going to be conference in 1990 in the ANC. It would be a consultative conference, not an elective conference. But these three organisations thought that it was an elective conference, that's why they were engaging in this plan and this conspiracy. Then the ANC, in the course of the period, was explaining that this was a consultative, so they realised they made a mistake by thinking it was elective. So in the course of the same year I receive another report, which said that they have postponed this campaign, because they realised this was not an elective conference. So we kept quiet. But the ANC of course held that conference and one of the resolutions of the ANC that during 1991 it will have its first elective conference … in December 1991. And therefore that was information out there.

In 1991 another intelligence information came that said that these three organisations have decided to change their plan slightly because having investigated further in the ANC. They discovered that this Zuma had a very large support in the ANC and 100% support in the province of Natal. It would not therefore be easy to remove Zuma in the conference that is coming. The time is too short to character assassinate him to a point that you could remove him. What therefore they thought was important for them was to... because they said you cannot remove him from the national executive committee, for an example, the decision making structure. What therefore we should do, which was a fallback plan that after the elective conference of 1991 Zuma must be removed from the position of chief of intelligence. And again, we looked at this and said there were worrying things. For an example, the issue of the people we were about to negotiate with. What are their thinking, they might not know our own thinking and we might not know their own thinking. But what does this mean?

So as we were preparing for the conference, it was clear that this first conference was of great interest, not only for South Africa but even for other countries out there. But this information was worrying. In fact, I think there was one article which was as a result of that but it ended because they realised there were no further things they could do. I'm saying this because there has been a process, and particularly against Jacob Zuma a conspiracy. I'm sitting there and I'm told by other organisations, I'm told that in my organisation, as well as in the NEC, there are people who are working for them who they want to be in control of this country. It was a worrying point. Leaving aside the information I had there would have been information I didn't have and perhaps important to try to follow this very closely.

Of course the conference came. In that conference I was elected deputy secretary general of the ANC. And of course Tambo moved out and Tata Madiba came in as the president. There were two decisions taken by the organisation that president Mandela and Thomas Nkobi, who was the treasurer-general after the conference, they will go to the United States to raise funds. Another decision that Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma shortly after conference, they will go to attend a conference in UK that was discussing constitutional matters. And indeed, after all of that, when the NEC has been elected by conference, then the NEC elects the working committee which runs the matters in between NEC meetings.

So we left to our tasks. One day, as we finished the conference and when we were going for supper I rushed to my room to listen to the BBC Focus on Africa. We were a little bit addicted to it because out there we didn't listen to all the medias from home. Among the reports that were given by the BBC was the report of the meeting of the working committee of the ANC which had met for the first time. And there were two decisions, among many, that were taken. One was that Thabo Mbeki was removed as the chief negotiator of the ANC and Jacob Zuma has been removed as the chief of intelligence. When I was going down I met comrade Thabo, I said man, there are decisions that are taken, you are no longer leading us on the negotiations. And he was shocked. And I said no, that's not the only one. I have also been removed as the chief of intelligence. He was even more shocked, knowing how the ANC deals with things. Particularly that you cannot take such decisions when the president of the ANC is not present. Why?

But to me, and I said to him, you did not know but me, I knew I was going to be removed but I did not know how.

The question that I was asking myself; I received information from intelligence sources that after the conference I would be not the chief of intelligence. This is supposed to have been planned by these three organisations. Why is it being implemented by my national working committee? What does this mean? It therefore was confirming that there may be spies here. Because it means there were people, when these intelligence organisations took the decision that they directed that they must make this to happen. Of course thereafter we worked and we did not even at that time, take this matter as a general point in the ANC we kept it as an intelligence issue.

But it is important to say this because the character assassination that I have faced over the years, more than 20 years. This is one of the clear sources that I know.

There was a plan to deal with Zuma and Zuma has been dealt with all the time. In other words, foreign intelligence organisations, and local ones, of course under apartheid, for a variety of reasons thought it was important to deal with this man. It was important for me to state that anything that happened since that time, I've been linking the dots all the time.

And I thought it is important to this commission, part of the reason as I would come to, that the matter of this commission is not different from, or the plan… not the commissioners here, those who initiated that there must be a commission. You'll recall that when I was not at the national level, I was in the province, suddenly I had to be charged. Before being charged, I was removed as a deputy president of the country. 2005. Because I was implicated in the arms deal. Bear in mind that I was not in the national, I was not part of the processes, I was in the provinces. It did not make sense to me. Of all the people who dealt with the arms deal not a single one was ever... or there were ever allegations against. But there were allegations against me. I had to investigate it.

In a very strange way, even that investigation... I had been investigated by the Scorpions. At a given time the head of NPA and the minister had a press conference wherein it was announced, yes there is in our investigation there is a prima facie case against Zuma but it's unwinnable in court. So that's why we're not charging him. Now there are investigations and investigations. I've never heard that kind of level of investigation being reported in the media. Why it was reported in the media for me? There are so many cases.

Clearly, that indicated the beginning of the implementation of this particular plan and the conspiracy. I had time at some point to ask Ngcuka why didn't you tell me you are investigating me and what it is that you are investigating. Ngcuka says no, you were supposed to be told by the ministers. Fine, I think that was a fair point. But he says there's no case against you. There's just few letters written by Schabir where he mentions your name as people always drop names.

But the week thereafter I was called by two leading people in government and in the ANC who said, man, there's been an investigation against you and it has come to a point where we must take a decision whether to continue investigating your or not. But this matter needs to be discussed to find a solution. And I said, what solution? In the end, I said, after they said whatever had to be said, I don't understand because the man who is investigating, just a week ago told me I've got no case. You are telling me here that I've got a case. I don't understand. And then that destabilised that meeting.

But of course around the same time there was information that I'm going to be talked to so that I resign from the leadership. And go to Nkandla and I would be looked after. Just resign. There was a rumour that I would be given something like R20 million and I would be maintained. And if I resigned this case, we'd then have a way to solve this case. And I was saying to myself, hmmm, that plan is now being implemented. These people don't know that I know something about the plan. Because myself and Joe Nhlanhla we did not report it to the entire leadership. It remained in the corridors of intelligence. So 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. Because nobody at that point said it out and out. But there was in the corridors. That was followed by then the decision to remove me as a deputy president by the president of the country. And of course I did move away. I made it very clear as a cadre of the ANC I'm not going to argue. The president has a right to take… so I got out. But shortly thereafter I was brought back by the membership of the ANC in an NGC which was in Pretoria.

So we continued. Then we were also approaching another conference which was in Polokwane where there was as usual, as normal, contestations, people having different preferences, etc. And I'm sure as a conference that is known by many people. 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 on I got to know that in fact there was a determination to arrest me before the conference in order to avoid me begin part of that conference. I think such facts have come to light particularly around the came that I'm facing in court in what is called the Zuma tapes wherein police, politicians, leaders of the country were talking about me, that I must be arrested.

That information was feeding into this fundamental intelligence organisations plan to deal with Zuma. Of course perhaps it's a long story to say what are the issues, why Zuma must be dealt with in this fashion. I'm sure it's obvious.

We proceeded in our life and working in government and in organisation. When I was being dismissed in a statement in Parliament, the president said Zuma must have his day in court. And I hadn't been charged by then. It was the first time I hear I must have my day in court. But you'll also remember this. I was being investigated, there was a lot of hullabaloo. Those who were investigating finally felt they have reached a stage to charge, they decided not to charge me but charge Schabir Shaik. But the accusation was that we committed crime with him. But not charged together. Charged Schabir.

As I got to know later because they wanted Schabir to be convicted in order to charge me. And that's what happened. So in a sense, prolonging the narrative about Zuma is corrupt. You'll also recall that when Judge Squires convicted Schabir thereafter there as a lot of talk about that people saying the judge said between Schabir and Zuma there has been a generally corrupt relationship. That relationship was a corrupt relationship. The media, politicians, academics, we all talk about this. This Zuma who had this generally corrupt relationship with Schabir. This was all over the world until the judge thought this was unfair to him now. Because he had never said so and asked people to read his judgment. Because he hever said that there was a generally corruption relationship between these two individuals. But everyone was saying so. Where did they get it from? Why would they put such a serious phrase against individuals which was unfounded. This was done to enhance the narrative against Zuma that Zuma is corrupt even if the judge did not say that. They must put the words in the mouth of the judge. Fortunately, that one is a matter that many people know. It was clear to me that this plan continues and that's why I would say there are people who would not be happy if I was not either in jail or I was not removed.

Of course we continued as I was supposed to be charged or again when I had been charged already, rather, the investigations were going on. NPA was confronted by the tapes which indicated there'd been planning, conspiring to charge me, with politicians and everybody else. The tapes are now a public thing. To an extent that when the head of NPA at the time came to know about these tapes, decided to withdraw the charges and therefore had not case against me then.

Not because of anything, because the plan to character assassinate Zuma, the plan to remove Zuma from leadership the explanation was done by these three intelligence organisations that he should be out because if he's there he would use the information he has to either expose or stop our people from going forward.

It means therefore that plan which was made by intelligence organisations in a sense had to be implemented among others by even people in my own organisation. You'll recall that when I was breeding (?) my home at Nkandla problems arose there about corruption and again, you'll recall that the media in this country mentioned the figure of the money I've squandered and everything. At that place there were two structures of government that investigated; they found nothing on Zuma. But I've been so much vilified in the world and everywhere that I'm the most corrupt person.

Of course after the two institutions investigated, the former Public Protector also came in to do her own investigation. Because people wanted to find something. She found nothing. That is in her report. Then she decided to say the additional security matters in my homestead which were put in as a result of the police and the army for security reasons as it is their duty to look after the president of the country. The Public Protector recommended that I should pay for those, because I indirectly benefitted. No one, no other president has been made to do so. But look at the heading of the report by the Public Protector. It said: secured in comfort. Why in comfort? Because I had built with government money an amphitheatre at Nkandla. Fortunately, thereafter members of Parliament from all parties went to Nkandla to do inspection. They looked for this amphitheatre and asked where it is. It's not there. It was never there. But an officer from a body like the Public Protector, who's supposed to protect us, used the phrases to enhance the narrative that Zuma is corrupt.

If you want to see why for an example I have a problem and reservations about how this commission was established, firstly, the issue of the family, the Guptas, came in. And the ANC felt we need to look into this. And I think the secretary general of the ANC was given a task by the NEC to investigate because there were these allegations. Somebody also said the Public Protector should investigate also in addition to what was begin done. Public Protector said there was no money. But the treasury found money to give the Public Protector. So that, investigate this before she leaves in a hurry. And of course she left the work; tried to complete it but it was difficult but it was there. The report… that… the reasons that there should be a state capture report. This was again to use this phrase, this is why I had a problem with it. Was the state captured? Why the report must say we are going to investigate the state capture.

Now I don't know because I never went to any school. I take things perhaps literally. I thought that 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, what ever else but these three but it is called the state capture. The matters that have been dealt with for me are general corruption matters. Why it was because I was the kingpin that we must get at. This commission according to those who are implementing this must be the grave of Zuma. Her must be buried here. And that's why whoever knew the Gupta family, or they were friends, then they don't matter. But Zuma matters. Because something must be found. Even if the money is not there. Those in charge of treasury can find the money to give to the Public Protector, so that this can be done quickly. In other words, the plan continues to be implemented.

Precisely because the opposition parties would want the ANC out of government, so they pick up the pieces, go to, we must reinstate the case. It's made. You don't even know whether these people are coordinating quietly. So I have a problem that this is not said to be a commission of corruption if you want to specify it with a particular family. So why do you call it a state capture? Is that expression meaning that the judges are captured? Is the government captured? Is the Parliament captured? I'm sure people have said I've got views, particularly because one day I was addressing students in the Eastern Cape and these were students of law. And I said to them, just check this for me.

Why would legal people accept this expression and work on it? What purpose does it serve? In other words, you are saying to the international community South African judges are captured. All political parties in Parliament are captured. The executive is captured by this family. It's an exaggeration. It is meant to enhance this narrative against Zuma.

Perhaps it is important to just firm up one point that I made in passing that I was supposed to be talked to to resign.

Long after Polokwane... I've got a comrade that I've know that I recruited into the struggle who is a businessman now. We had a common friend in Angola. Because of Polokwane this friend felt that well my relations with this comrade was never good. He wanted us to talk. Can you talk? So I said, fine. And this is comrade Mzi Khumalo. So we met, the three of us. Two of us, and this friend. There's no fight among us. Whenever we go to a conference of the ANC, there's a contestation. It doesn't mean there is a fight. So we discussed that, fine. Of course, Mzi said you know I'm a cadre, you were elected there. In fact, he said, I did not even support Mbeki, I was supporting Nkosazana. But once that happens, we are one. But he said something interesting. That he was approached before Polokwane conference by two comrades he knew and the one official they were going with. These was Bulelani Ngcuka, Penuell Maduna and they were accompanied by a Scorpion which he did not know. They presented a matter to him to say we've come to you to make a request. This comrade, comrade Zuma, we've done an investigation, it is at a stage where we need it to go further and this comrade, the case would be very serious. We know this comrade sacrificed, fought a lot. Now, we don't think he should go to prison. We think that we should find a way to make him leave the work that he's doing and retire, go to Nkhandla. And we want to look after him. So we wanted to come talk to him, as a comrade, as a businessman. Can you help? Give us some money?

This is said by this two comrades, to Mzi Khumalo, who now relays to me. And he says he said to them how much? I am fine, but how much? But he says they never came back.

But again the rumour an the rumour that was going in the corridor that Zuma must be made to resign and go to Nkandla becomes a reality, confirmed by the discussion between Mzi Khumalo and them. So as I said earlier it was a rumour but this was confirmed very firmly. No one has every come to me and to say could you go home and stay, but it moves around. People try to find something that can make Zuma disappear.

And therefore many other things, including the coming into being of this commission, influenced by this. And people who are participating are not aware of that. And my concern, the Public Protector leaving aside the name of the commission, in my view, prescribes how this commission is going to be. All commissions are appointed by the president and there is no question about it. The Public Protector says in the process of making the proposal, the Chief Justice must be the one to identify the judge who must then be the chair of the commission. And I find that very odd. Because in my view, the Public Protector is taking the power, executive powers, of the president. Asking the Chief Justice to do the job that must be done by the president. But of course I was the president then and this was basically centred around me. I thought I must not raise this issue because it's going to be again said that Zuma is making tactics of delaying tactics or whatever. So I said fine. And hoping, of course hoping that some of the legal people will say, what is this? But of course this commission was established.

I don't have a problem with it. I have a problem with the Public Protector taking the powers of the president in order to fulfil some agenda, I don't know. Unless I'm told otherwise, chair, that in fact there is a provision in the Constitution. I would be very happy that there is nothing wrong that the Public Protector was saying. Why would the Public Protector go to the extent of influencing of how this and who must do the identification of the leader of the commission?

All these things put together, tell me that it's a huge plan that's been made. And it's had been made and it has been implemented. You'll recall that the issue of Zuma must resign, the issue of there are terms in Parliament, the vote of confidence, which is fine because that is within the framework. In fact, even people remembered that we don't even have the way how to impeach a president. It's not, let us do it. Because we must take this fellow out. We must find a way. Here is a commission. This fellow, he is a friend of this family. We're going to find something. He's been told by this family, who to appoint, who not to appoint, etc. etc. And there is nothing of this kind. I'm still waiting for somebody to tell me yes, you were told here to appoint this one, and you did in this way or that way. Because I've been waiting so that I can really ask the kind of a person, where did you get this from? But it has been made to be included in the narrative, get rid of Zuma. The whole country, at one point there was a demonstration we have never seen before when the white community came out in great numbers. Zuma must go. What has he done? Nobody can tell. He's corrupt. What has he done? Nothing.  

Of all the presidents who have been before me there's not a single one who have been brought to commission, not a single one. But to Zuma, we must do it.

I'm giving this background, because whatever we do, I've listened to some of the people who have been accusing me coming here. One of them said that, it was Ngoako Ramathlodi, when we were saying he must resign, he was asking what has he done. We know he has auctioned the country. What an exaggeration from a lawyer. He can't tell you auction what. What, did I auction Table Mountain? Or auction Johannesburg? I don't know. The man was sitting where I was sitting now – Zuma has auctioned the country. That's why we said he must go. But it is a lie. It's nothing of that nature.

Finally, because I'm here, I'm about to finish my second term, those people perhaps who were part of the decision that Zuma must not be chief intelligence, within my organisation, feel they fail to do the task. Those who are tasked to ensure that Zuma goes. They create a situation as we're about to go fo rhte State of the Nation. They say Zuma must not do this one. It's part of the implementation of the plans of the intelligence organisations that Zuma must go.

And of course, finally, he must come before the commission to answer questions. And I'm here to answer questions. But chair I thought it was important for me to give you this background in whatever conclusions the commissions would come to or whatever questions you will be asking me, you must bear in mind that I've got this background that is a worry to me. The fact that I was the president, some people forgot it. And of course, clearly if there are such activities, particularly from my own organisation, I need perhaps to go back and say these three intelligence organisation who said there are people here. Are there people here? Do I know whether there are people here or not, even from my intelligence work?

Now I don't want to discuss intelligence, but certainly the actions, the behaviour, has indicated that it looks like there are. Who are they? Should we reach that point because for a number of reasons we've been very carefully not to play to that ground because it’s sensitive. But I have been provoked and provoked to the last degree. But people at time I have known what they've been doing because I wanted to save the organisation and to save the country.

They make stories, they do everything. My own family suffers out of this. Leaving me perhaps I'm a soldier I can take everything, people forget that I have a family which would want to hear lies being told about me. But not just that. You have some of my children who have suffered as a result of me. One of my sons, Saady, was working in a company. I think it's Marse Firefighting Fighting company. He was working there, given a responsibility to look for, I mean to concentrate on the continent and there was a time put that at the end of the time you would become one of the directors. A company and … and others wanted to have a deal with this company. When it came to the papers, they saw a name Zuma, Some Saady Zuma. They asked who's this? Poor fellow, he thought this is a child of a president, these guys are ANC, they would be very happy. He says, no, this is the son of the president. They said, sorry, we can't have a deal with this name. If this man remains on your papers there is no deal. It's either us or him. He was asked very politely by the employers to leave the company

He tried to look for a job in Johannesburg. Because he was Zuma's son he couldn't find it. He tried to start a business, he could. He came to me to say I've got a problem. I said, my son, go to Durban and look for a job. That's where he went to start his own business.

The young man who comes after that one, Duduzane. They started knowing this family, when they used to come to me when I was still a deputy president. When he finished his studies, he has done IT, he went to work in intelligence, national intelligence of the country. When these attacks on me started, he was ill-treated there. He finally came to me and said I wanted to work for government, but I can't. Because I'm your son I not even accepted there. He looked for an employment. Now that he knew this family that are running an IT company, he looked for a job in that company. He was employed and work in that company as an employee.

When I was taken to court he was quite agitated. Left the job. He wanted to take videos of my appearance in court with his friend. I said you can't leave a job. He said, no, I'm leaving this job. Of course the case disappeared at some point. He came back to me to say, dad you are right. I not finding a job. I've been looking for a job in Gauteng, nobody can take me because I am your son. I've been looking for partners, nobody can take me. I said, you know what I said to your brother, you must go to Durban. He went to Durban, started some business with some partners. But later he discovered something he didn't like in the company.  On his own he went to talk to the Guptas that he would like to come back but not as an employee this time. He wanted to be part of the company.

They discussed it and finished. I did not even know. I was only informed afterwards. And he has been there, working.

Because he is my son he has suffered a great deal. Of course people would not feel good if I'm still there but I'm just giving the chair the impact of this. As we moved towards the end as I say the NEC itself was influenced to take a decision that there has been calling Zuma must go, he must go indeed.

In other words, that plan I'm talking about finally succeeded. I had to resign from the ANC in order to leave the ANC in tact because I love it. It's my organisation. It meant nothing if I resigned, the ANC remains. But it is clear to me something which came from the answer of the three intelligence organisations that there are people infiltrated, their spies, they were at work. I asked my organisation what have I done, and I got no answer. Maybe, chair, having said what I said, let me deal with my relationship with the Gupta family so that you don't suffer, you try to ask questions.


… Let me explain this to you because it also has elements that are funny. Members of this family were brought to my residence in Oliver Tambo when I was a deputy president where I saw them for the first time. They were coming from Mahlamba Ndlopfu from President Mbeki. The person who introduced them was Essop Pahad. They were introduced as good businesspeople but they were also comrades, members of the ANC. And that's how there some of my family members got to know them. The young man, who was still very young at the time, saw them and introduced them. That's why when he wanted a job he remembered they had said that they run this type of an IT company.

There were also introduced for the second time by some comrades in Gauteng who were praising them that in their company they take workers from their places in the morning to work and they cook lunch for them and they took them back at sunset.

That's how I got to know them and I with time because I had now known them, I got to know even some of the things they do. For an example, one of them was a member of the international council that was advising the president on economic things. And I found them to be a very friendly family. With time I too to know quite a number of them if not all of them. And indeed they knew a lot of comrades. And I got to know that when Mandela was president, they got to know Mandela. And when Mandela was gone, they became friends with Thabo. Whilst I was there, as I say, they saw me coming from his home.

I've never did anything with them unlawfully or whatever. They just remained friends. As they were friends to everybody else. I've explained how my son got onto them when he looked for a different kind of businesspeople to work with. And I've wondered why I am accused. Why people think that my relationship with them is not right when they had relationship with other people. Two other presidents have had relations with them. In fact, more stronger with comrade Thabo Mbeki. He himself has appeared at times addressing them in the social media. Why should people…

Everything that happens is sort of associated with me. I've been, you know, even names and names that I allowed these people to land at a national point. I did not know where they were going to land and whether there was a landing to happen on a particular day. That was one thing Ramathlodi said when he was sitting here. He allowed his friends…

The point I'm making I never did any other things or breaking the law with this family. Never. They were businesspeople and successful businesspeople. There are a lot of businesspeople that are in the ANC and I think some of them have worked with them. I'm not a businessperson and I know nothing about business. I know something about politics.

Because of the fact that they are comrades, they're accepted, and I realised that they're not just a small little business, they are quite substantial.  

There had been a problem that had worried us, all of us, that in this country the media is very biased. At all material times, it's just critical. It criticises the country, etc. There is no alternative voice. And if people could complain and say I abused them, that one I could plead guilty. Because I then one day, having known that we have been trying to have business who are progressive to establish a media sort of alternative voice of what is happening. I think even people who are ANC members had tried even to partner with other people. It had never worked. At that time I was the president of the ANC. I then said them, man, and making a suggestion. Can you try a business, a media business, because we are comrades, we need an alternative voice. There are many attempts that have been made before by progressive people, but they have never worked. Is it possible that you could establish a newspaper? They had never thought of the idea. And we discussed this. They finally said, I think it is a good idea. Because it is business as well. I said, fine. So they said, no, we'll do something about it. They came back to say now they've decided they want to establish a newspaper. As soon as they… they agreed because this was me as an individual talking about what we had seen as a problem: that the media in this country is very negative. In fact, a number of things that are done which are supposed to be reported about, at times they don't see the light of day. Only negativity.

Once they agreed, I then thought it would be important for me to make one person aware of this. One leader, who is the secretary general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe. I said, Gwede, I've talked to these comrades. For them to do their business and they seem to be warm to the idea. And then after that I also informed the deputy secretary general about this to say this is an initiative of these comrades but it's an important one. We as politicians pay a lot of attention to media also running countries because we would want for an example a fair reporting. At times the reporting in our country is not fair. So they were happy as well. So I said, man, so that you know I'm not just talking, one day I would be happy if you could see them and hear how they're thinking of… they've been thinking about it. So the two comrades and myself listened to them at one time when they wanted to say how they wanted to go about this thing. So I agreed.

When they were about to… when they were moving forward, they then said can you help, asking me, give us a name. We don't know how to call this newspaper. So I said to them there used to be struggle publications we used to have, called The Spark, Fighting Talk, New Age, etc. So I gave all these names. They loved this name, New Age. And that's how the paper was named.

So they establish a newspaper and started working. We were very happy. They even discussed that they were going to report on provinces in this newspaper so that there's no province that is not reported to as always they are not in the national newspapers unless there's a big thing. Let's do something different, as I was saying. When this paper was operating and really being appreciated in the country to bring about an alternative voice. I then said and said, man, the newspaper, fine, we have succeeded.

I don't know and I was thinking whether I could push them further. So I said to them this is very successful, what about a TV channel? I suggested the paper to them. I suggested the channel.

Somebody can then say we are abusing this friendship. It was never the other way around. It's me who put them into trouble. Because I said your paper is so successful I am sure your TV thing can be successful. And they agree, they said it's a good idea and they moved on it. 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. There was no wrong things done. I discussed with businesspeople many things when I was still in the government. Even suggest certain things, can't you in your business? This was a normal sort of interaction.

So they established this and indeed the ANN7 brought a fresh air in the country in terms of reporting, in terms of putting across progressive ideas. It was never a backdoor things or that there's a corruption about it. Nothing. Clear suggestion about business and business people took it. They then fetched their people, whoever it was.

I'm making this point because that relationship ended up in so far as you we are concerned we want media that is progressive, helping to have this media that was able to report differently. That is an extent of the kind of friendship we had. I think they invite always many people for their functions, yearly functions, and people go there. Somehow because I was, this was me, people thought that we found something to implement that plan. Because Zuma is friends to this, let us say, his relationship with Guptas is corrupt. And I don't know where is it corrupt. Few comrades raised the matter with me. I asked, what is the wrong thing? What is wrong? They couldn't tell me. In fact, one time it was raised, in the national executive committee, I made an explanation how I came to know this and nobody said it wrong. There was nothing wrong.

But some people are irritated. I don't know. Besides this, I even explained this in the national executive committee that we just talked with them. One comrade, Essop Pahad, is actually working with them in a publication called The Thinker. He was editor. I think at the end that business ended up with him. Nobody says anything about that. Nobody says anything about the relationship between them and Mandela. Between them and Mbeki. But because there's a narrative to be done about Zuma, Zuma there's something wrong. And nobody's telling me what is wrong with me, what is not wrong with the other people. Including other comrades.

But some people thought this is what we're going to get Zuma. That's why they influenced the process to establish this commission to find Zuma. They've been friends and they were friends and they worked with my sons and there was absolutely no problem. In fact, I was waiting to hear what it is that they did wrong. There is nothing more that I can say these are the things that we did. I'm mentioning this because to me these were important, the media thing. The newspaper and the channel. We talked to them.

Once the idea was ripe they then went to brief the top 6 officials about the initiative they were undertaking. They also briefed the alliance. They also briefed provinces. And they also, I think, like all newspapers talked to people in government for advertisement or whatever. What's wrong with that? No, it's because they happen to know Zuma. They've become friends to Zuma. Then there's something wrong. I couldn't take people who are raising issues on this matter when they have no complaint just to say no, no, no we don't like them.

Never, never did I discuss anything that does not belong to them. I'm told that they were appointing ministers. Where do they come in? Why they should do so? Was I not capable of doing my work? That I needed other people? Do a lot of consultation with the leadership when it comes to placing people or forming Cabinet or whatever. I've never done it alone. What's the problem? Of course unfortunately those who came never said this is what is happened. They just say wrong things, blah blah blah. It is important for us to clarify that point. Some people are so irritated that I did not know how to explain that one.

These were comrades, they were businesspeople. I was introduced to them even at a very high level of the ANC and that's how I got to know him. And that's why my son felt if he went to them and joined them and become partnered with him these were people that can work and succeed. And I thought there was no problem. But he has been crucified for that.

Well, in terms of the Guptas, unless there was anything, when the time comes, I will come to. Let me come back to the issue of the plan, the unfolding of the plan. The people who come dealing with the issues.

I have been attacked, even when I'm coming here. Part of the reason we have more visitors today than any other time, because I am here. Some people I know for a fact might know that I know things about them and therefore they are not going to like me. But I've behaved for decades, I've not played around with intelligence information. I've lived with people who don't know I know about them because that was not what I was trained for to use intelligence wrongly or callously. But these people have provoked me and other people. Not only that. Some of the people had said things. For an example, one day comrade Mbalula attended an activity in the farm or home of Mr Rupert and when Rupert saw him, he said, Minister Mbalula – when that happened he was the minister of sports – if Zuma takes out, removes Pravin Gordhan we would shut down the economy of this country. You must go an tell him. And indeed Mbalula came to tell me. I said, but what he has to do with us? I didn't know he was a member of the ANC to decide how the ANC must deal with this matters. What is his problem? I said, go back to him to say that's his problem.

But he said we would shut down… we would make the rand flat on the ground.

Fine, indeed, they did interfere with the rand. I think there is one person who confirms not long…  this year that they did so. And I knew even at that time it was a deliberate move, part of the agenda.

I never thought I would be nasty to people. And I think I can be nasty. I've been overprovoked. People coming, saying things about me because I'm not going to revenge. Perhaps some people that the planners at the beginning talked about, they have reached the point where they said they had wanted them to reach. I don't know. I have survived attempts to kill me. People looking to poison me or being instructed by their handlers to do so.

Finally, poisoned. The very dangerous poison. All emanates from those people who made the plan at the beginning. At some point they felt I'm not disappearing and therefore they must deal with me. Many attempts were made firstly the court issue, for an example, was a way to get me out. I don't think there is a case in this county that finished 15 years going in and out. Even the judges say there is no case here. Those who remember Judge Msimang, the late, said there was no case and he took it out of court. And those who'll remember, Judge Nicolson, said there is no case here there is just politics. And indeed the tapes confirm what Nicolson was saying. But no newspaper will write that because the narrative is deal with Zuma.

I'm still having the case I have made an application that the case must go. They do everything to ensure that this case is there because it feeds to the narrative that Zuma must go. Everything I do – nothing. That is why even the nine years that I was in government some people will say it was a wasted time. Even if they were party to implementing decisions. They were party to taking those decisions. But when they talk about it, they are out of it. Zuma must account.

It's absolutely important that we accept the fact that there is something we need to deal with as a country. The very fact that intelligence organisations which today are key instruments to run countries… the war today is fought at intelligence level, no longer at the hard guns, etc. A worrying point is that one of our intelligence which was still under the hands of the apartheid regime, conspired with two other intelligence organisations to do things in our country. And it means those who were negotiating with us, they were… [Zulu] Because we also know that at the time a decision was taken that some of the agents who had been operating getting pay from the apartheid regime, that the apartheid regime thought that they were not know by the ANC. It was an agreement between an intelligence organisation here and the United States that those should be taken with their files to them. But they'll remain with us. And they remain with us. They are among us.

And therefore they have their bosses. They're handled to do things here. And that's why some of them were rushing to come here because they've found a platform to deal with Zuma. When, and I must say this, when we were in exile, at some point having done a number of things, the organisation gave me the task to be chief of intelligence, and there's a particular spy that I will say something about. He was called Ralph, but he had given himself the name Fear, who infiltrated the ANC and caused a lot of damage. And when, because I had problems with him when I was still was doing other work. When I was here, I made it a point that we come into grips with this. Some people have written a book with some information, distorted information on this particular character as they were trying to give the sins of Zuma in some books.

He operated in Swaziland and caused people to die. We finally arrested him and indeed he confessed he was a spy. Well trained. Before, he was a student in the Western Cape but he did not finish because there was a trike, they were chased out. He went to Durban to his sister. And during that time he was recruited by the regime. He was taken to training for six months and taught how to be a spy. And trained through the ANC literature so that when he comes to exile he must look like a bright student who catches so quickly, and yet he's been taught on the material he's been taught here by the apartheid regime.

Came with his wife, there's along story about him. And the wife herself was sent so he had there had a marriage that was authorised by the police at the right time, part of the cover. And he was finally arrested and confessed.

[Zondo interrupts: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the word, his wife was sect?

Zuma: Sorry

Zondo: I'm said I didn't hear, the wife himself was sect?

Zuma: I said she was sent by the police, the special brand.

Zondo: Oh, sent by the police.

Zuma: Yes, from home, to join him.

Zondo: OK

Zuma: Yes]

When he was detained he asked to see me. And I saw him with comrade Joe Nhlanhla. Where he was saying I have written my confession. Here it is. But I just wanted to come and talk to you. I so hated you, if you I found you sleeping when there was no one, I would cut your throat. He said, it took me time to confess because I have been more loyal to the regime than to the ANC. But I thought it is important for me to tell the truth now. That agent knew a number of others who are in the movement because he was one of highly regarded spies of the regime. Soon as he did confession he was poisoned and died. But he had given the list of others. Because he knew them.

And many comrades lost their lives because of the work of that person. He even made comrades inside the country to lose their lives if he was instructed to give cadres instructions to kill people inside. One of the comrades was in KZN that he did so. Send innocent comrades to that comrade to say that he was a spy when he was not a spy.

Much as I have a view about spies and everything. But we had a code to operate that we handle this with care. But I think other spies who have been sitting around… [Zulu]. You know, just recently there was a function in Durban where the Masakandis wanted to feel the stadium. Some of those people one day you'll know, they planned to murder me inside the stadium. And I know them. They planned to murder me.

Zondo: Is this a reference to some of the people who may have appeared in the list that was left behind by the spy who was poisoned?

Zuma: Some of them.

What saved my life is because I did not go there. This is attempt on my life. There 've been people sent from outside the country to come and kill me. But I've been patient, not saying a thing. But I have been provoked to the last degree. Yes, I have got the list and other lists as well but that is not the business of me to deal with those matters here. But it's important, it's important for me so that you can see the behaviour of people. What made comrades Ngoako to behave the way he did here? Saying I have auctioned the country. In the NEC I just do what I like. He's carrying out an instruction. He was recruited when he was a student in Lesotho to be a spy.


Zondo: Please, let's not clap.]

And he finds it very comfortable to come here and say this Zuma he was a good man. And I've known him for years that it is what he is but I've never shown it. Because I thought he would change.

Some other people have made themselves very nice. Joined something called 101 and said a lot of things about me. Some of them that I commanded. Some of them who commanded other comrades, but they are not known.

And perhaps people will realise why there seem to be some problems. Somehow, somewhere. I think it would be important for people to behave correctly so that they don't cause problems. Some of the people I've loved, I've worked with them, trusted them. Even when I got to know, because I thought maybe they have left the wrong ways.

The critical point is that the plan made way back has been working and our enemies in fact have recruited more even than during the struggle. That's why you will see things when people are doing things in the manner in which doesn't look like ANC. It is some of them who influenced this commission to bury Zuma. And I’m sure in the discussions as we go, I will be looking at things and saying what else.

I um, I want peace. I want harmony and that is why even those who have done things to me, I'm not feeling beat up on. But some, some of them have even collected information, gave it to the writers who write books about me. Maybe at some point in the discussions here I might come back to this issue in the commission while the commission still continues. But I thought I should deal with one who has said I have auctioned the country to the Guptas. Others have said things out there but the time is there to deal with matters. All I'm saying it's important for you chair to realise some of the things we are dealing with are very big and very deep. And it's important to know that there is a plan that's being implemented against Zuma and it gets in in many ways.

I must come here and answer questions about people of, who are perhaps, I don't know what questions are there, but the ones I have heard so far, I though that somebody is going to say Zuma is hiding something with the Guptas or something, something. So that what is it that I've done wrong?

But it is important to bring Zuma here so that the narrative grows. Here is Zuma being questioned about his relationship with Guptas. What's wrong with the relationship? Nothing wrong. But many other people are friends with these comrades, they are not the issue. The issue is Zuma.

As you collect towards the information and you walk towards making conclusions I thought that this is important that I say partly because some people are part of the plot to kill me, perhaps it is important that before I die, I tell the story. I'm telling you, if I can tell you the details of the plan to kill me in Durban was detailed. Detailed. It involved people brought from outside of the country. [Zulu]. Suicide bombers were supposed to do to me. And perhaps that will make you realise that for me the matter is bigger than it meets the eye. And I've been respectful to comrades, to people I know. Maybe I've reached a point where that must now take a backseat.

They concoct everything just to deal with Zuma. As part of this narrative there is a film which is being made about the case that, took place and I was found not guilty – rape case. There is a journalist in South Africa who is doing that work. Redi Tlhabi. It's been done outside to say Zuma is a rapist. It fits in this narrative. She has been doing it in the media where she works. Radio. Because this narrative must be done. The question I ask them, these people who participate in it, where do they get the idea that Zuma must be put down? Who instructs them?

Perhaps it would be important to look into this matter many times, say what can we do? We have a country to save but there are people who don't care who want to give negativity in terms of what we do in this country. I have resigned as asked by my national executive committee and I'm staying there, far away. But even when I'm staying there, there's a plot to kill me when I'm no longer in any activity except attending the national executive committee meetings of the ANC, as a member of the ANC.

Well, as the commission goes, I might come back with other matters but I thought it's just important at this point to take the matter up to here.

Thank you very much, chair.

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