Former South African President Jacob Zuma ducked and dived on his second day of testimony at a corruption inquiry on Tuesday, saying he knew nothing about his business friends the Guptas allegedly offering a former lawmaker a ministerial position. The inquiry is spotlighting the allegations of graft that clouded Zuma’s nine-year presidency, but analysts say that if it fails to pin a case on him it could dent President Cyril Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption drive. Ramaphosa’s efforts to clean up politics are already hampered by the lingering influence that Zuma and his allies exert over the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Allegations that Zuma allowed the three Gupta brothers to plunder state resources and influence senior government appointments are one of the main areas of focus for the inquiry, which began in August and is expected to last into next year. The Guptas have denied the allegations against them, as has Zuma, who was ousted by the ANC in February 2018 and replaced by Ramaphosa. State prosecutors have said they are following the inquiry and they could open cases if sufficient evidence of wrongdoing emerges. Under pressure from his party, Zuma agreed to set up the inquiry just before he left office. Asked about an incident where one of the Indian-born Guptas allegedly offered former ANC lawmaker Vytjie Mentor the position of minister of public enterprises, Zuma said on Tuesday: “I know nothing about it”, repeating the same phrase several times and once letting out a chuckle. Mentor told the inquiry that
Jacob Zuma’s lawyers argued on Monday that the former South African president had been treated unfairly by prosecutors in his attempt to have revived corruption charges set aside because he is unpopular in the country at large. Zuma, who was in office from 2009-2018, has applied for a permanent stay of prosecution from 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a deal to buy 30 billion rand (1.6 billion pounds) of European military hardware for South Africa’s armed forces in the late 1990s. The 77-year old, appearing in court on Monday for the fifth time since the charges were reinstated in March 2018, has previously denied any wrongdoing and has said he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt. On the first day of the hearing, Zuma’s lawyer, Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, described the former president’s treatment by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as “mob justice” and said Zuma had been charged because the country does not like him. “Suppose we know that he may well have done what we suspect he did. Does he get stripped of human dignity, is there a reason to deal with him in a particular way because he is Mr Zuma?” Sikhakhane said in his opening comments. He accused prosecutors of being biased against Zuma, who was ousted by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in February 2018 after nine years in power marked by graft allegations and economic stagnation that led to credit rating downgrades. Sikhakhane also asked the court
South African Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Sunday that efforts to clean up corruption in state-owned companies (SOCs) faced “dangerous” resistance which threatened the country’s sovereignty.
“But the dangerous and unscrupulous fightback against our reform efforts continues. If we allow this fightback to prevail, we risk losing our sovereignty,” Gordhan said, without naming who was behind the backlash.
Duduzane Zuma, the son of South Africa’s graft-tainted former president Jacob Zuma, will stand trial for culpable homicide in March over a fatal late night car crash in 2014, a magistrate said Friday. Magistrate Heidi Barnard told the packed court that there would be a pre-trial hearing in January.
“I want you to avail yourself as well on 26 March 2019, that will be your trial date,” she said.