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Zuma Tells South Africa Corruption Inquiry He Is Victim of Foreign Plot
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=770"><span class="small">Jason Burke, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Monday, 15 July 2019 08:30

Burke writes: "South Africa's former president Jacob Zuma has told a judicial inquiry into corruption allegations that he is the victim of a plot by foreign intelligence agencies to seek his downfall."

Jacob Zuma. (photo: bt)
Jacob Zuma. (photo: bt)


Zuma Tells South Africa Corruption Inquiry He Is Victim of Foreign Plot

By Jason Burke, Guardian UK

15 July 19


Former president is appearing before committee investigating allegations that he presided over vast corruption network

outh Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma has told a judicial inquiry into corruption allegations that he is the victim of a plot by foreign intelligence agencies to seek his downfall.

Speaking on the first day of five days of testimony, Zuma denied he had presided over an immense system of corruption and patronage that drained billions from the country’s exchequer.

Zuma was ousted last year after almost a decade in power, following a bitter internal battle within the ruling African National Congress party. He faces five days of questioning by Raymond Zondo, a senior judge, mandated to investigate allegations of “state capture” in South Africa during his rule.

In his first hour before the inquiry, Zuma claimed two foreign intelligence agencies had recruited spies within the ANC as part of a scheme to control South Africa and that the inquiry was designed to smear him.

“I have been vilified, alleged to be the king of corrupt people,” Zuma said, looking relaxed and wearing a dark suit. “There are people who infiltrated, there are spies who were at work. I asked people in [my] organisation: ‘What have I done?’ They can’t tell me,” he said. “This commission … must be the grave of Zuma. He must be buried here.”

The inquiry was set up after an ombudsman’s report uncovered apparent evidence of improper contact between three wealthy businessmen brothers – Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta – and senior officials in Zuma’s administration.

The report, which stopped short of asserting criminal behaviour, called for an investigation into whether Zuma, some of his cabinet members and some state companies acted improperly.

Among the cases it reviewed was an allegation by the then deputy finance minister that the Guptas offered to secure him his boss’s job, as well as claims that Zuma directed state firms to award tenders to the Guptas.

Zuma has said the three Gupta brothers are his friends but he denies any influence-peddling in their relationship.

The inquiry has heard a series of further serious allegations from witnesses in recent months, describing massive bribes paid to officials by businesses seeking favours.

Throughout the morning session, the 77-year-old Zuma continued to portray himself as a victim. “I have been provoked and provoked to the last degree … My own family suffers … people forget that I have a family who do not want to hear lies about me”, he said.

There have been fears that the veteran politician and former ANC intelligence chief will use the hearings as a platform to attack his successor Cyril Ramaphosa, who forced Zuma from power last year.

Ramaphosa led the ANC to a convincing electoral victory in polls in May but has so far been unable to fully assert his authority over the party.

Observers say Ramaphosa needs to move quickly to root out entrenched networks of patronage and graft, often involving individuals who owe senior positions within the party or public administration to Zuma.

A quarter of a century after the end of the racist, repressive apartheid system, South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world, with soaring unemployment, a flagging economy and high levels of violent crime. The ANC has been in power since the end of apartheid but is split by a bitter factional struggle.

Zuma faces a separate corruption investigation involving 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a deal to buy European military hardware to upgrade South Africa’s armed forces in 1994. He denies the charges.

The “state capture” inquiry hearings have been broadcast live and attracted large numbers of viewers. The former president’s lawyer, Dan Mantsha, told local TV networks last week that his client was “relishing the moment”.

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Last Updated on Monday, 15 July 2019 09:27