DAYS OF ZONDO: NEWSFLASH

Zuma hasn’t laid a case related to suicide bomber plot – and reveals new assassination threat

By Ferial Haffajee 16 July 2019
Caption
President Jacob Zuma testifies at the State Capture Inquiry on 16 July 2019. Photo: Greg Nicolson

The former president’s legal team unveils Stalingrad tactics 2.0 – but Judge Raymond Zondo nips it in the bud.

Former president Jacob Zuma has not laid a case with the police related to his claim that a suicide bomber gang attempted to take him out at a recent Maskandi concert in Durban.

On Tuesday, Zuma started his testimony before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture with another bombshell revelation. He told the commission’s chairperson Judge Raymond Zondo that somebody had called his PA on Monday, 15 July and said: “Tell Zuma we are going to kill him and kill his children as well as some people around him. I have lost a child (before). This Commission must know that my life, my children’s lives and the lawyers (representing him) are now under threat.”

On his first day of testimony, Zuma said that he had not attended the Durban concert as he had received information of a hit on him; he also said that he had faced a 29-year-long conspiracy to get rid of him by local and foreign intelligence operatives.

SA Police Services spokesperson Vish Naidu said he could find no record of a case being laid by Zuma.

We can only investigate if a case is opened with us.”

It is totally unacceptable for anybody in our society to want to use violence and intimidation,” said Zondo after Zuma had revealed the latest threat to his life. He added: “I would urge the Commission to ensure that witnesses get all the protection they need. [But I am not sure] whether by nature of your position you don’t already have maximum protection.”

Zuma has state VIP protection by dint of his position as a former head of state.

The Commission’s evidence leader Paul Pretorius told Zuma that he could avail himself of the institution’s investigative capacity and if he needed further protection.

The show goes on

On Monday and Tuesday, despite his bombshell claims before it, the Commission continued its work of questioning Zuma about whether or not he attempted to influence support for the Gupta family’s media interests which included the New Age newspaper and, later, the ANN7 television station.

On Tuesday, Pretorius began by asking Zuma if he had had a hand in getting former government spokesperson and DG (called a CEO) of the Government Communication and Information Service (GCIS) Themba Maseko fired from his role. Maseko was among the Commission of Inquiry’s first witnesses and testified that Zuma had called him and asked him to support the Guptas’ media enterprises. When Maseko refused Ajay Gupta’s entreaties to divert government advertising from other media to the New Age, he was sacked.

Zuma denied that he had anything to do with this, although as president he hired and fired DGs.

The Minister [the late Collins Chabane] discussed the fact that he would like to transfer Mr Maseko. There was an issue between them. (He said) We can no longer work together.”

Stalingrad tactics start

While Zuma looked comfortable detailing the attacks against him and the in-depth detail of the 29-year intelligence conspiracy on Monday, he was clearly uncomfortable when testimony related to State Capture started.

On Tuesday, he answered questions about Maseko’s testimony haltingly and with significant gaps in his recollection. His lawyers staged their second sortie on the commission. It raised the spectre that the strategy was a “Stalingrad” plan to delay proceedings, in reference to the battle strategy at Stalingrad.

He [Pretorius] is cross-examining Mr Zuma about matters Mr Zuma is not clear about,” said Advocate Thabani Masuku.

It’s just unfair to require Zuma to recall what happened. If he says Mr Zuma was corrupt, he must say so, not implicate it through questioning.”

On Monday, Zuma’s attorney Dan Mantsha and his lead counsel, Muzi Sikhakhane, said that their primary strategy had been to cut off communication with the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. In his first day’s evidence, Zuma said that the commission was part of a plan to target him.

Masuku said that Pretorius was cross-examining rather than merely questioning Zuma – the commission inquires rather than accuses, so it questions rather than cross-examines.

Masuku also questioned why the commission had not taken a statement in the form of an interview from Zuma to form the basis of his evidence before it as they had done with other serving and former Cabinet ministers who had appeared before them.

What is happening here is just what we think should not be happening. That is why we are anxious about these kinds of questions in this kind of forum.”

Zuma’s lawyer is clearly concerned that the proceedings of the commission can be used in a case against him: Masuku said: “He [Pretorius] knows what is going on here is of interest to the criminal justice system. The way he is doing things is not right.”

The Wisdom of Zondo

After an adjournment for an hour to discuss the lawyer’s objections, Zondo returned to the commission hearing with the details of a peace pipe agreement which meant that he would not have to rule on the objection by Masuku.

A way has been found to deal with any prospects of views of unfairness,” he said.

[Mr] Zuma’s counsel has indicated that they do not wish to be seen as if they are being obstructive and I will try and be more ready to intervene in case I think there’s unfairness in any question.

Mr Pretorius will put questions in a manner that takes account of concerns. Mr Zuma’s counsel will only raise a question if it’s serious – they will allow proceedings to flow as much as possible,” said Zondo.

Testimony continues. DM

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