Former president Jacob Zuma appears before the Zondo commission on July 19, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS
Former president Jacob Zuma appears before the Zondo commission on July 19, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS

It is now clear why former president Jacob Zuma is playing hide-and-seek with the state capture commission of inquiry.

In deliberating whether to subpoena Zuma on Friday, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo detailed instances in which the former president is directly implicated and for which he has to answer.

There are many and they are damning.

Amid a spate of arrests in the past two weeks and more to come, Zuma and his erstwhile disciple in Luthuli House, Ace Magashule, are on the back foot. This became clear after Magashule concocted an elaborate ruse to smoke out the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) by announcing that he is aware there is an arrest warrant with his name on it – his floor at Luthuli House is clearly rank with fear.

Magashule exposed his weakness, but also the very sparse support he enjoys from actual ANC structures, none of which have come out in his support, despite the glaringly obvious propaganda campaign being spun out daily by Independent Media. The ANC’s secretary-general is likely aware that his turn is next because the evidence against him, led publicly at the Zondo commission, is damning.

The recent arrests follow mere months after game-changing amendments to the regulations of the state capture commission by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The amendments effectively freed up the commission to share its evidence – and there are mounds of it – with the NPA.

The move by Ramaphosa was masterful.

It is why Magashule is aware of how deeply he has been implicated by witnesses and it is the reason Zuma has now dug in his heels and will do almost anything to ensure that he is not placed in the witness seat, under oath, before Zondo.

It is beautiful to watch – as various pieces of the state capture painting have begun to give us a complete picture of the monstrosity that populated the canvas of Zuma’s decade in office.

On Friday Zondo provided a glimpse of the issues Zuma has to come and clarify before the commission – for instance, the allegation that former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas was offered money by the Gupta family to take up the post of finance minister, then occupied by Nhlanhla Nene.

He described how the Guptas had offered Jonas the post and later Nene was indeed axed. Zondo said he heard evidence that Jonas was told that Nene needed to be replaced because he wasn’t working with the Guptas. Then, continued Zondo, in his 2015 media statement on Nene’s axing, Zuma had said that Nene had done a sterling job as finance minister but he was being removed to free him up to occupy a post at the Brics bank.

“But that job never happened and I have heard evidence from somebody from the bank who said that is not how that bank operates, it has got policies and procedures and Mr Zuma had no say, he had no power to force the bank to take Mr Nene,” Zondo said.

“Mr Nene himself said his position as the minister of finance was higher than the position Mr Zuma was talking about in the bank and Mr Nene said actually that Mr Zuma’s reason for dropping him was a fabrication.”

This was said under oath by Nene, Zondo told the commission.

“So the question is how come someone from the Gupta family knew in advance that Mr Nene was going to be fired, then Nene gets fired, the president [Zuma] says he has done a sterling job but he fires him nonetheless, the man goes and stays at home, the job the president spoke about doesn’t materialise and Mr Nene said: ‘He never even phoned me after I had left and was sitting at home to check whether anyone had contacted me about this job.’”

Zondo said thereafter Jonas gave evidence saying the Gupta brothers told him, when they offered him the job, that they would provide support staff for him at the National Treasury. Then Nene’s replacement, appointed by Zuma, Des van Rooyen, came to the Treasury with certain advisers who had connections to the Guptas.

The Guptas also told Jonas that there were people they worked with in government, including Brian Molefe and Lynne Brown. Pravin Gordhan, now minister of public enterprises, told the commission that when he was removed as finance minister, the top six of the ANC was informed that Zuma wanted Molefe to replace him.

Zondo said members of the ANC top six, including deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and former secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, provided affidavits confirming this. Then Molefe resigned from Eskom and went to parliament a month or two before Gordhan was fired. Three members of the top six who provided affidavits said they did not approve of Molefe taking up the post. Molefe, shortly after that, resigned from parliament.

“Mr Zuma has to enlighten us on all of these things,” Zondo said.

These were just two examples Zondo raised in Friday’s session.

“How can I ignore all of those things? I am doing my job to establish exactly what happened so that I can prepare a report … and if he is implicated I am giving him an opportunity to clear his name, he may not want to clear his name, that’s fine, but I want to know what he has to say about these things,” he said.

Zuma has also not responded to questions put to him by the commission in an “areas of interest” document, which he had promised to provide 10 months ago.

It is clear that Zuma’s reticence to come before the commission is prompted by the fact that the information obtained by Zondo can now be used and accessed by the NPA. Zuma’s fight on the state capture allegations is just beginning, but it is unlikely to succeed.

While Magashule may have adopted strategies from Zuma’s playbook, his is a vastly different situation – mainly because he, unlike Zuma in 2015, is nowhere near the presidency and therefore has very little to offer those who support him.

Both Zuma and Magashule are running out of road and will have to answer to the many allegations against them.

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