The former president of South Africa has told a public inquiry panel in Johannesburg that his relationship with a group Indian businessmen was ‘not corrupt’.
Jacob Zuma, 77, argued in front of the Zondo commission, an inquiry set up to investigate a string of corruption allegations against him during his nine years as president, that he was the victim of a ‘character assassination’ by foreign intelligence agencies and spies
Zuma has been accused of allegedly aiding Indian businessmen, the Gupta brothers, in winning contracts for their companies with government departments in South Africa, including energy and transport during his time as president.
It is claimed that the Gupta brothers, who have previously employed numerous members of Zuma’s family in their different businesses, had a great influence over Zuma when he was head of state.
The commission has spent the last ten months investigating claims of ‘state capture’, a form of corruption where businesses and politicians conspire to influence a country’s decision making.
Zuma ordered the Zondo commission to begin an inquiry shortly before his presidency ended in 2018 after public outcry and political pressure about his alleged dealings with the Guptas became too great.
Witnesses in the inquiry have given a number of testimonies implicating Zuma’s connection with the Gupta’s, including a claim that he was in charge of a Gupta owned news outlet designed to spread political propaganda.
Siyabonga Dlamini, a Political Scientist at Kwazulu Natal University, told RFI that public support for Zuma will grow, the longer the inquiry goes on.
“The man is still very much popular and I think his support will grow the longer that this case continues.
“A number of people are feeling that the man has been victimized and vilified so they then sympathize with him.
“As the case continues, the number of people even people from other political parties grows because they have this feeling that the man has been vilified and therefore needs their support.”
Zuma is currently accused of 16 counts of ‘graft’, an offence in which a politician uses their privileged position for corrupt personal gain, in a separate legal battle.
He has also been involved in past legal battles, including a rape case in 2005 where he was charged, but later acquitted.