State capture: 'I still have nightmares'
... but Zuma has nothing to say and nothing to ask as damning probe testimony mounts
Former president Jacob Zuma doesn’t believe any of the evidence led in the State Capture Inquiry so far implicates him in criminal and ethical wrongdoing – and he has not applied to cross-examine a single witness.
Zuma – who was Monday accused of “protecting” a delinquent cabinet minister accused of wanting to “steal at all costs” – has never responded under oath to the state capture allegations against him.
During then public protector Thuli Madonsela’s investigations into state capture, he refused to answer a single one of her questions during a four-hour-long interview, on the basis that he wanted to get legal advice before he did so.
Questioned about former deputy Finance minister Mcebisi Jonas’s claims that the Guptas had offered him the Finance minister post, Zuma previously responded: “Ask Jonas.”
In the two weeks of testimony, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has heard several witnesses implicating Zuma in state capture — most notably former Government Communications and Information Systems (GCIS) CEO Themba Maseko and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor.In a letter written to the Zondo Commission, Zuma’s attorney Daniel Mantsha says the statements given by Jonas, Mentor and Maseko do not contain evidence that he violated the law.
This does, however, not mean the former president will not give evidence at the inquiry. He can be subpoenaed to testify, should Zondo believe he has the information required for the commission to get to the truth.
Phumla Williams, acting GCIS director-general, on Monday told journalists she hoped Zuma would address the allegations against him and explain why he had seemingly protected then Communications minister Faith Muthambi – whom she accused of wanting “to steal at all costs”.
The leaked Gupta e-mails revealed evidence that Muthambi leaked confidential cabinet memos to the Gupta family, in an apparent effort to assist their business interests. She and her former deputy Mzwanele Manyi, who later took over the Gupta family’s media empire, have both been formally notified that they are implicated by Williams’s testimony. As yet, neither has applied to cross-examine her.
Williams said she had turned to Zuma after Muthambi, without any consultation or explanation, restructured GCIS so Williams would no longer exercise any form of oversight over procurement.“What is most painful is that President Zuma knows what I went through. He knows exactly my pain of torture, so I don’t understand why he would actually keep quiet and not intervene,” she told Times Select after completing her evidence.
“I’m hoping that he will find an opportunity to explain. I’m hoping that he will find it in himself to explain.”
Zuma’s advocate Muzi Sikhakhane had told Zondo, at the onset of the inquiry, that the former president wanted to “participate meaningfully” in the commission. But Zuma’s lawyers maintain the evidence led so far does not show that he violated the Public Finance Management Act, Criminal Procedure Act, Executive Members' Ethics Act or the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.Jonas testified that a Gupta brother, either Ajay or Rajesh, tried to bribe him and threatened him if he did not take over then Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s position and doing the family’s bidding. He claims the brother told him the family controlled Zuma. Months after that alleged meeting, Zuma removed Nene and replaced him briefly with Des van Rooyen.
Maseko claims that, while he was on his way to a 2010 meeting to Ajay Gupta, Zuma called him and asked him to “help” the Guptas. He alleges Ajay later told him he would get Zuma to “sort out” any errant minister who did not agree to have their department’s advertising budget channelled into Gupta media houses.
Mentor claims Zuma was at the Saxonwold compound when Ajay offered her the position of minister of Public Enterprises in 2010, in exchange for her stopping SAA from flying to India. She said she was “agitated” after this offer was made to her, and Zuma tried to calm her down.Zuma’s son Duduzane, and Gupta brothers Ajay and Rajesh, have all applied to cross-examine Jonas, Maseko and Mentor.
Williams yesterday gave explosive evidence about how Muthambi’s mistreatment of her revived the trauma of her apartheid-era torture.
“Minister Muthambi – or rather this woman – Minister Muthambi had ripped my scars of torture, completely, completely. I was no longer sleeping, I had nightmares … I had panic attacks. I saw torture going through my body again. I never thought in this government, people can do such things.”
Speaking to Times Select after completing her evidence, Williams admitted she had been apprehensive about testifying and had considered backing out.
“I still have nightmares ... but I’m taking it that maybe it has to be this raw, because this is what they did to our country. Maybe this is what I have to deal with, and I’m hoping that the commission is going to help.”