Former president Jacob Zuma kicked off his testimony at the Zondo commission of inquiry looking into state capture on Monday by discussing some of the allegations against him and his relationship with the Gupta family.
Here are some of his top quotes:
The character assassination of Zuma
Zuma reiterated his long-held notion that the commission is in a fight against him.
"When this commission was proposed or a recommendation was made that I should establish a commission by the previous Public Protector, there were certain issues that I was not happy [with, and] the manner in which they were handled... Particularly because this commission, from my understanding, was really created to have me coming here and perhaps to find things on me."
Zuma positioned himself as the victim, saying there had been a battle to push him out that went as far back as his time as deputy president, when a decision had been taken to remove him.
"Around the same time, there was information that I'm going to be talked to so that I resign from the leadership and go to Nkandla, and I would be looked after. 'Just resign'. There was a rumour that I would be given something like 20 million [rand] and I will be maintained. If I resigned, we'd then have a way to resolve this case. And I was saying to myself, 'that plan is now being implemented'. These people don't know that I know something about the plan because myself and Joe Nhlanhla, we did not report it to the entire leadership, it remained in the corridors of intelligence. So the issue of 'Zuma must resign, Zuma must leave the leadership' started way back."
The judge in the Schabir Shaik case, according to Zuma, said there was "a generally corrupt relationship between the two". The judge, Zuma added, said he never said this, "but everybody had been saying this, where did they get it from?"
Zuma explained that this was done to enhance the nation-wide narrative that he was corrupt, and words were put in the mouth of the judge.
"I was investigated, there was a lot of hullaballoo, those who were investigating finally felt that they've reached a stage to charge [somebody]. They decided not to charge me, but charge Schabir Shaik. The accusation was that we committed crime with him... As I got to know later, they wanted Schabir to be convicted in order to charge me, and that's what happened."The issue of the family, the Guptas, came in and the ANC felt 'we need to look into this' and I think the secretary-general of the ANC was given a task by the NEC to investigate because there were these allegations."Somebody also said the Public Protector should investigate, in addition to whatever was done. The Public Protector said there was no money [to investigate] but the Treasury found money to give the Public Protector... That there should be a 'state capture' report, this was again, to use this phrase... Was the state captured? Why [must] the report say 'we are investigating the state capture' ... the matters that have been dealt with, for me, are general corruption matters... This commission, according to those who are implementing things, must be the grave of Zuma, he must be buried here."
Meeting the Guptas for the first time
Zuma spoke about the relentless effort to name him as the "kingpin" of state capture. Here, he named the Gupta family for the first time during his testimony on Monday.
"Members of this family were brought to my residence in Oliver Tambo when I was a deputy president where I saw them for the first time ... the person who introduced them was Essop Pahad. They were introduced as good business people, but they were also comrades of members of the ANC. That's how some of my family members got to know them..."That's how I got to know them and with time, because I now know them, I got to know even some of the things they do. For example, one of them was on an international council that was advising the president on economic things."I found them to be a very friendly family. With time, I got to know quite a number of them, if not all of them... I got to know that, in fact, when Mandela was president, they started being very close and they were friends of Mandela. When Mandela was gone, they were friends with Thabo [Mbeki]... I never did anything with them, unlawfully or whatever, they just remained friends."
The beginning of ANN7 and the New Age
Zuma described the point when the seed was planted for the Guptas to start the infamous New Age newspaper. Zuma went on to explain that the Guptas briefed senior ANC officials, top six and provincial structures on the move.
"Because of the fact that they are comrades, they are accepted, and I realized that they seem to be [not a small business but] quite substantial, there had been a problem that worried us. That in this country the media is very biased. At all material times, it's just critical - it criticised the country, etc. There is no alternative voice. If people could complain and say I abused them, that one I can plead guilty [to]... At that time, I was president of the ANC, I said to them, making a suggestion, 'can you try a business, a media business. We need an alternative voice ... is it possible that you could establish a newspaper'."
The unfolding of 'the plan' to discredit Zuma
"Some people, I know for a fact, might know that I know things about them and therefore they are not going to like it. But I've behaved for decades, I have not played around with intelligence information... But these comrades have provoked me and other people. Not only them, some other people have said things."
Zuma states he is ready to name and shame.
"I have survived attempts to kill me. People looking to poison me or being instructed by their handlers to do so. Finally poisoned, a very dangerous poison, all emanates from those people who made the plan at the beginning. At some point, they felt I'm not disappearing and therefore they must deal with me. Many attempts were made..."
'I cannot be certain'
Zuma appeared unable to give clarity around questions raised when Themba Maseko, the former head of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), testified. The GCIS is responsible for placing adverts in the media.
Responding to a statement by Maseko, which spoke of the ANC's internal inquiry into state capture, Zuma said: "I can't recall what happened to that inquiry."
Maseko also alleged that Zuma had called him to meet with the Guptas about their new media venture. Zuma could not recall this.
On allegations that Zuma had asked that the GCIS' entire R600m budget be allocated to the Gupta venture, he said he had no knowledge of this and would not like to comment.
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