Former president Jacob Zuma appears before the state capture inquiry on July 15 2019. Picture: ALON SKUY
Former president Jacob Zuma appears before the state capture inquiry on July 15 2019. Picture: ALON SKUY

Former president Jacob Zuma has hit out at his detractors, saying he has been provoked long enough and the time has come to speak the truth even if it hurts the organisation he loves.

He was addressing scores of ANC supporters after appearing before the state capture commission in Johannesburg on Monday.

Zuma, who has been implicated in wrongdoing by a number of former and current cabinet ministers and senior government officials, expressed unhappiness about his resignation as president in February 2018, saying “it was not an innocent move”.

He grudgingly resigned as president after President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected ANC leader at the party's elective conference at Nasrec in December 2017. Zuma backed former AU Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him as ANC president but she lost to Ramaphosa.

He took issue with “some people” who had mentioned his name “in passing” when presenting evidence to the commission, chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.

He said he would go back to the commission and deal with issues that need to be dealt with, even though he didn't think there was anything requiring his clarification.

“I thought the time has come that we must speak the truth,” he told the crowd.

He said during the struggle for freedom some people sold out for different reasons.

He told the commission that former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi was recruited when he was a student in Lesotho to be a spy, an accusation Ramatlhodi denied.

Former president Jacob Zuma appeared at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture in Johannesburg on July 15 2019.

Ramatlhodi appeared at the commission in 2018, when he testified about Zuma’s “toxic” relationship with the Gupta family, who are at the centre of state capture allegations.

Zuma said they had believed that under the ANC regime those who were doing wrong things would stop. “Now, we were thinking those who know they did wrong things they will stop. But it seems there is a new kind of bravery to those people. They participate in activities that are not taking our organisation and country forward,” said Zuma.

“Now they might be thinking we have forgotten about them. It is absolutely important to realise you can’t kill the ANC easily, it’s a big organisation that is carrying the future of this country.”

Zuma said a concerted plan to “finish me off through character assassination” was hatched in the 1990s, and when he confronted the intelligence organisations responsible for that, “they said I know too much about their spies in the ANC”.

“They [said they] don’t know when will I use my knowledge to stop those spies from becoming the leaders of the ANC.”

In February former ANC leader and Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota accused Ramaphosa of selling him and other detainees out to the dreaded special branch in 1974 to save himself from being jailed on Robben Island. Ramaphosa has denied this.

Zuma said the plan to stop him from becoming a leader ended up influencing the ANC national executive committee to “ask me to resign before finishing the term of government”.

“It was not an innocent move. And because I love the ANC I didn’t want [to challenge it]. I said: ‘Fine let me resign, I will remain a member of the ANC forever’.”

He called on  ANC supporters to “remain in our trenches” and defend the ANC, which was at a critical moment in its history.

“I want to thank you for being strong and for also saying: ‘We cannot allow our comrade to be hanged [to] dry in front of us’,” Zuma told the crowd.

“I said in the commission: ‘I have been provoked enough for over 20 years and I think that must come to a stop’.”

Zuma has accused the commission of being politicised, lacking impartiality, and being out to get him.

Mzwandile Masina, the Ekurhuleni mayor and regional ANC chair, said: “When we support president Zuma people must not say we are factional. We have long moved after Nasrec, but there are people who want to make it difficult for us to be members of the ANC. We must refuse.”

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za