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Of all that has been said and written about state capture, there is perhaps no better description of the Guptas’ relationship with former president Jacob Zuma than that of ANC veteran Ngoako Ramatlhodi at the Zondo commission this week.

“It was like a python which had wrapped itself around him,” Ramatlhodi said during his testimony on Wednesday.

Ramatlhodi said some members of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) had tried to impress on Zuma that his relationship with the Guptas was unhealthy.

“We would say to him: ‘This relationship of yours with these guys is toxic, why don’t you end it?’” He said Zuma would reply: “Those people are my friends because they helped my children when I was persona non grata.” It is astonishing that Zuma’s motivation for “auctioning off” his executive authority, as Ramatlhodi put it, was so basic. Ramatlhodi’s evidence confirmed what former intelligence heads Gibson Njenje and Moe Shaik told Sunday Times in September — that Zuma rebuffed their warnings about the Guptas being a threat to national security by saying they were the only people willing to help his children. So the relationship between Zuma and the Guptas was a “mutually beneficial symbiosis”, the term used by judge Hilary Squires to describe the former president’s relationship with Schabir Shaik. Despite him being fired as deputy president and facing corruption charges over his relationship with Shaik, Zuma replicated the formula with the Guptas, this time to extreme levels — all...

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