At last, the day dawned when former South African president Jacob Zuma would give his side of his story to the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. Zuma was represented by advocate Muzi Sikhakhane.
Sikhakhane said that Zuma wanted to connect his own dots – but that he must be treated fairly and protected from himself. Before the proceedings concluded, Zuma would give a subtle warning as to who he will ‘out’.
An ‘unfair process’
Sikhakhane was concerned that Zuma had not been given the opportunity to warn people who may be outed by him and that this is an unfair process. Evidence leader advocate Paul Pretorius didn’t see the logic in this submission, as it is Zuma’s prerogative to implicate persons.
Sikhakhane accused the commission of having an attitude, influenced by views from “outside”, and treating certain witnesses as sweethearts, and others not. He also said that if Pretorius does not understand him, he would not “invite his condescension”. This resulted in the gallery of Zuma groupies, led by former ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus and four-day finance minister Des van Rooyen, breaking out in an explosion of clapping.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo had to admonish them, saying that there would be no clapping of hands. This did not control the group for long, as they evidently forgot where they were and found themselves loudly clapping again. As much as they tried to paint a picture that this is all a show, they may be disappointed to find that it isn’t.
Character assassination and conspiracies
Zuma launched into his background, outlining his life, his history with the ANC, and of being involved in trying to find a solution. He joined the ANC at an early age, and in addition to the teachings of his parents, the ANC taught him to behave in a certain way. He mentioned his 10-year prison sentence and having to leave South Africa. He has survived several attempts to poison him.
Zuma appeared to be reading from a script, but at times sat back comfortably, looked up at the ceiling, and gave vent to his feelings.
He warned of intelligence organisations that are running the country. Their spies have infiltrated the ANC. He claims to know the identities of these spies.
He painted a picture of paranoia, conspiracy theories, and character assassination.
He has been vilified and alleged to be the king of corrupt people. He is of the view that the commission was created to find things on him. This is due to his popularity, the intelligence information he has on people, and because of who he is. The commission is intended to bury him. The white community came out in great numbers and said that “Zuma must go”.
Zuma is going to spill the beans of what he knows – “I think I can be very nasty. I have been provoked.”
Although evidently off-script, such comments are by no means off the table. He will no doubt be required to furnish names and proof of his accusations.
Zuma was introduced to the Gupta family when he was deputy president by former minister in the presidency Essop Pahad. The Guptas were already friends with former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. “They were advising the president on economic things. They were ANC members. They were friendly and knew a lot of comrades.”
Zuma spoke of the biased media, and the fact that there was no alternative voice. The media only sees negativity. Previous attempts by progressive people to create an unbiased platform had not worked.
He suggested a newspaper, to be called The New Age, and the Guptas thought it was a great idea. Zuma averred that he was speaking as an individual.
When the newspaper proved to be successful, Zuma suggested a TV station to the Guptas, and ANN7 was created. Zuma said that ANN7 was progressive and reported differently.
The growing narrative
Zuma is convinced that the commission has been influenced to bury him. “I want peace, I want harmony, and that is why I am not bitter about those who have done something to me.”
He accused former minister of public service and administration Ngoako Ramatlhodi of being a spy. Ramatlhodi, who accused Zuma of having auctioned off the country, was tasked with discrediting him and getting him killed.
Zuma informed the chair that he would deal with the one who said he has auctioned the country to the Guptas, and that it is important for the chair to realise that some of the things are very big, and very deep.
Pretorius did not get far in leading the evidence, and there was a slight problem of files not having been submitted to the commission.
There was a swelling of singing outside, indicating that the supporters had arrived. Zuma requested leave to wash his hands. Close to 4pm, with the chair possibly realising that the “washing of hands” was a euphemism for Zuma to bond with his supporters, the day was brought to a close.
But not for Zuma. In front of a large ANC banner proclaiming ‘Unbroken, unbreakable’, his supporters waited for him.