On Tuesday former president Jacob Zuma let it be known that he is the victim. His life has again been threatened, as have those of his children. An unknown caller delivered the latest death threat to his PA the night before. He also informed the Zondo commission of inquiry that his counsel, Muzi Sikhakhane SC, had also recently received death threats.
Zuma was supported by additional counsel, advocate Thabani Masuku SC.
Evidence leader advocate Paul Pretorius began by questioning Zuma on the sections from Themba Maseko’s testimony in which Maseko has implicated Zuma.
Testimony of Themba Maseko
Maseko was CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) and spokesperson for the Government of South Africa. In 2011 he was transferred to the Department of Public Service and Administration as director-general (DG) by then minister in the presidency, Collins Chabane. He was replaced as GCIS CEO by Jimmy Manyi.
Maseko alleges that on Ajay Gupta’s request, Zuma instructed Chabane to fire or deploy him.
Maseko was then transferred to another department. This allegedly occurred after Ajay called Zuma.
This was denied by Zuma – “DGs deal with ministers, not presidents”.
Zuma explained that he was not running the department, and that DGs were shifted from time to time. He also made the point that people use the name of the president all the time.
Zuma’s legal team objected to the unfair manner in which Pretorius was questioning Zuma – if Zuma is to be cross-examined on a witness’s testimony, he must be given time to study it: “In our assessment as lawyers this is cross-examination … how can the president be expected to remember meetings that he was not there … let’s be fair and stick to what this commission is about.”
Pretorius argued that the commission was not trying to plead a case as represented by a charge sheet. They were giving Zuma the opportunity to deal with what might have been said by Maseko and what he might have intended to convey.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, ever conciliatory, suggested adjourning for tea, to be followed by a discussion with the two legal teams in his chambers. The legal teams reached an understanding – Zuma’s counsel did not want to be seen as being obstructive by raising objections during the proceedings. It was agreed that the chair would intervene should he think there is unfairness in any question put to Zuma by Pretorius.
Testimony of Vytjie Mentor
The essence of former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor’s testimony is that in 2010 a member of the Gupta family “offered” her a ministerial position – that of minister of public enterprises – on condition that she “favoured” the Gupta’s commercial enterprises. Mentor alleged that this offer was made with the knowledge and approval of Zuma. She claimed that she was at the Gupta residence in Saxonwold, and saw Zuma there. She was upset, and he tried to calm her down as he walked her to the car.
Zuma denied seeing Mentor at the Gupta residence, said he did not know her, and denied ever having had any interaction with her.
However, at the commission, Zuma said that sometime after Mentor’s allegations, he saw a picture of her. He realised that he knew the face. But he still denied the allegation about seeing Mentor at the Gupta residence.
On Monday Zuma was in complete control as waded through his lengthy testimony, boasting about the detailed knowledge he gathered when he was the ANC chief of intelligence.
On Tuesday, Zuma flip-flopped between confusion (“Gupta who?”), absolute denial (“No, never”), and non-recall (“I really don’t know” or “I really don’t remember”).