Former president Jacob Zuma, who is at the centre of corruption and state capture allegations, on Tuesday denied having anything to do with the coercion of former member of parliament (MP) Vytjie Mentor to take up a ministerial post or the removal of ex-government spin doctor Themba Maseko for refusing to bow to the Gupta family’s demands.
Zuma’s replies to evidence leader Advocate Paul Pretorius were “no”, “I do not know” and “I cannot comment, I wasn’t there”, a complete contrast of his Monday testimony where he made spy allegations against certain African National Congress (ANC) leaders.
The former president said Mentor was “exaggerating” in her testimony implicating him, and washed his hands off the firing of Maseko in 2011. Maseko told the inquiry that he was fired after refusing to give the Gupta family a sizeable chunk of the Government Communication and Information System’s (GCIS’s) R600m advertising spend.
Zuma denied initiating the sacking of Maseko and subsequent transferal to the public service department in 2011. The late Collins Chabane, who was a minister in the presidency at the time, was the responsible authority for director-generals and could have used his name to remove Maseko, he said.
“The minister [Chabane] could have decided to transfer Maseko, that has nothing to do with the president. I do not remember exactly but I know there was a bit of shifting of director-generals around that time. I might not remember the reason why that happened…but all that lies with the department of public service.”
Chabane died in a car crash in 2015.
On Mentor’s allegations that Ajay Gupta offered her a public enterprises’ ministerial post should she agree to do away with South African Airways’ Mumbai route and that Zuma was in the next room at the Gupta Saxonwold mansion, the former president denied this vehemently.
“I had no interaction with this witness, nothing. He [Gupta] had nothing to do with government, he is a business person.”
He denied sitting next to Mentor in ANC caucus meetings or knowing anything about the former MPs criminal charges laid against him and several other politicians for alleged corruption.
Pretorius was stopped in his tracks by Zuma’s legal team as he tried to dig deeper through questions, resulting in a standoff with Advocate Thabani Masuku.
Masuku argued that his client was being treated unfairly and he objected to Pretorius’ line of questioning saying his client was being cross-examined about meetings and phone calls that he knew nothing about. Pretorius said all he did was lead evidence and sought clarification from Zuma.
“I am not cross-examining the witness…I have never said “I put it to you” to Mr Zuma,” Pretorius said.
The standoff prompted commission chairman Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to intervene. The matter seemed settled after Zondo held an impromptu meeting with both legal teams.
Zuma’s supporters gave Tuesday’s hearing a miss. Police stood by alone at nearby Pieter Roos Park with no single supporter in sight. Organisers said the crowd would be back on Friday to lend support to the former president on his last day on the stand.
Zuma will be back in the stand on Wednesday.
– African News Agency (ANA)