Judge invites Zuma to tell his side of the state capture story
Zuma has refused on numerous occasions — including in parliament while he was president — to respond to allegations of state capture
A day after former president Jacob Zuma told students at the Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha that there was no such thing as state capture, his lawyer said he was willing to testify at the commission he appointed to investigate it.
In a surprise development, state capture inquiry chair Raymond Zondo said on Thursday he wanted to hear the former president’s version of events, despite the former president saying he did not believe he had been implicated ethically or criminally during evidence before the commission.
The commission, as part of its regulations, has the power to subpoena witnesses and force them to testify.
Zuma has been directly linked to allegations of state capture by former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor and former government spokesperson Themba Maseko.
The former president, his son Duduzane and the controversial Gupta family are at the centre of the state capture web.
The Guptas have been accused of having influence over Zuma and the running of the state, and of using their connection with him and his family to direct spending by the government and state-owned enterprises towards their business interests.
Zuma has to date refused to respond to allegations of state capture or explain his relationship with the Guptas, even when questioned in parliament.
Zondo on Thursday said he had invited Zuma to submit an affidavit with his version of events in relation to testimony given by Mentor and Maseko.
Mentor alleged that after she was offered the job of public enterprises minister by Ajay Gupta, while at a meeting at the Saxonwold compound, and she had become “agitated and become loud”, Zuma had emerged from one of the rooms in the house and spoken to her.
Maseko has testified that he received a phone call from Zuma in 2010 requesting that he “help” the Guptas.
Daniel Mantsha, Jacob Zuma’s lawyer, said the president is “not scared” to testify at the inquiry.
“He has no reason not to co-operate, he has never not co-operated. He’s not running away and he is not scared to come. He’s willing to come to testify.
“Therefore he should not be treated like he is a suspect or an accused person,” Mantsha told Business Day.
Zuma’s lawyers released a statement on Thursday insisting that he is “co-operating” with the inquiry and they hit back at Zondo’s request for him to respond to the evidence against him as “unfortunate”.
“Former president Zuma made an election in terms of the rules of the commission that he will not apply to cross-examine the witnesses who allegedly implicated him or may implicate him,” his legal team said.
“It would seem that despite him co-operating with the commission his election (in terms of the commission’s own rules) is misunderstood as non-co-operation,” it said.
Meanwhile, Zondo dismissed the applications by Ajay and Rajesh Gupta to cross-examine witnesses, because they refused to return to SA and testify in person at the inquiry.
Zondo granted Duduzane Zuma permission to cross-examine former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, after agreeing himself to testify.
Jonas revealed in 2016 the Guptas offered him a R600m bribe and the job of finance minister. It is alleged that Duduzane Zuma and business person Fana Hlongwane, who were also present when the offer was made, facilitated the meeting.
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