Monday 15 July 2019


Former president Jacob Zuma on Monday denied that the Gupta family ever dictated to him who to appoint or fire from Cabinet.

"Never did I discuss anything that does not belong to them. I’m told they were appointing ministers, where do they come in?

"Was I not capable of doing my work that I needed their assistance?" he said. Zuma, who was delivering his opening address to the state capture inquiry on Monday, admitted that he suggested to the Gupta family that they start "progressive" new media platforms in SA.

He said the Gupta-owned media companies The New Age newspaper and the ANN7 TV channel was in fact his idea.  

He was describing to deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo his relationship with the controversial state capture-accused business family.

"Many people have criticised me, even in my own organisation, and I’ve explained in proper settings of the organisation and some people just don’t want to take it.

"Members of this family were first brought to my residence at Oliver Tambo House when I was deputy president. They were coming from Mahlamba Ndlopfu, they were coming from (Zuma's predecesor as president, Thabo) Mbeki," he said. 

"They were introduced by Essop Pahad. They were introduced for the second time by some comrades in Gauteng.

"With time, because I had now known them, I got to know some of the things they do…They were indeed, they knew a lot of comrades, and I got to know that in fact when (late statesman Nelson) Mandela was president, they started being very close and they were a friend of Mandela and when he was gone, they were friends with Thabo Mbeki.

"I’ve never did anything with them unlawfully or whatever. They just remained friends as they were friends to everyone else…Everything that happens is sort of associated with me."

In a clear reference to the controversy around the Gupta wedding guest aircraft landing at Waterkloof air force base in Pretoria, Zuma said: "I did not know where they were going to land or if there was a landing that was going to happen on a particular day."

Zuma claimed SA media was "very biased" and there was no "alternative voice".

"If people could complain and say I abused them (the Guptas), that one I could plead guilty. I then one day having known that we have been trying to have businesses that are progressive, in trying to have a media that is alternative, I then said to them making a suggestion that 'can you try a media business because we are comrades, we need an alternative voice. Is it possible that you could establish a newspaper?'," Zuma said.

"They had never thought of the idea. They finally said I think it’s a good idea. They came back to say now they decided they wanted to establish a newspaper…

"Once they agreed, I then thought it would be important for me to make one person aware of this, Gwede Mantashe (ANC national chairperson), I said I have talked to this comrade for them to do their business and they seem to be warm to the idea. I also informed the DSG (Jessie Duarte) about this."

Zuma admitted that he even suggested the name for the newspaper.

When they were moving forward they then said 'can you help, give us a name, we don’t know what to call this newspaper'. They loved this name The New Age and that’s how the paper was named. They established the newspaper, started work, we were very happy," he said. 

"When this paper was operating, I then said to them this is very successful, what about a TV channel? I suggested the paper to them, I suggested the TV channel…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...This was a normal kind of interaction.

"Indeed, the ANN7 brought a fresh air in the country in terms of reporting, in terms of putting across progressive ideas. 

"They worked with my son and there was absolutely no problem. I was waiting to hear what is it that they have done wrong."  

Earlier, the ANC said in a statement issued during Zuma testimony that the former president had briefed ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule about his appearance before the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture.

The party said Zuma visited Luthuli House on Friday to formally brief Magashule.

The organisation viewed his visit as courteous and exemplary. It did not get into the details of the meeting in the statement it issued.

The ANC has also appealed to South Africans who have information that can assist the work of the commission to avail themselves and present relevant information to the inquiry.

"The ANC has consistently called on its members and leaders to co-operate fully with the commission and to assist the commission in its work. The commission was set up at the insistence of our organisation and other South Africans who are committed to ethical conduct in both the public and private spheres," the statement read.

During Monday's proceedings, Zuma claimed that he had been a victim of a three-decade conspiracy which included foreign intelligence organisations aimed at blocking him from rising to power.

Zuma began with a lengthy opening statement which addressed all the major scandals levelled against him: the arms deal case, the upgrades to his Nkandla homestead and, most recently, allegations of state capture and his relationship with the Gupta family.

But the former president blamed it all on "a huge plan" to have him removed from power.

He said that as the ANC's chief of intelligence in the early 1990s, he received a report saying there were three intelligence organisations - two foreign and one local - that had met and plotted "a process of character assassination against Zuma".

Zuma said this was done because he had information on spies within the ANC.

Indirectly quoting a report he received, Zuma said: "There are spies in his organisation whom we want to nurture that they grow within the structure of the ANC to the point in some time where they will lead the agency. Now Zuma has information about these people. That is why the character assassination began."

He said: "There was a plan to deal with Zuma and Zuma has been dealt with all the time …It is important for me to state that anything that happened since that time, I have been linking the dots all the time." Times


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