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S.Africa’s Zuma bats away graft inquiry questions

FILE PHOTO: Jacob Zuma

JohannesburgSouth Africa | AFP | Former South African president Jacob Zuma on Tuesday rebuffed all accusations of wrongdoing on his second day of testimony at an inquiry into corruption under his rule.

Zuma said he and his family had received death threats after his first day at the judicial inquiry being held in Johannesburg.

The former president was asked to respond to testimony by several earlier witnesses who alleged that he granted favours to the wealthy Gupta family at the heart of the “state capture” scandal.

He repeatedly replied that he was unaware of or not present at alleged meetings.

During hours of questioning, Zuma, 77, confirmed he had met the Gupta brothers to discuss the New Age, the newspaper that he had encouraged them to set up in 2010.

But he denied that he knew about alleged harassment of civil servants by Gupta executives demanding that the government’s advertising budget was spent with the newspaper.

Asked whether he met with the Guptas over the newspaper project, he replied: “From time to time they briefed me.”

“They were just briefing me on progress they were making in establishing that business, the newspaper — not the financing,” he said.

Looking relaxed, he often replied “I know nothing about it” and “I can’t comment” when presented with witness testimony implicating him.

Zuma’s testimony was briefly halted after his lawyers complained that he was being cross-examined rather than allowed to present his evidence to the inquiry.

He said that on Monday evening his personal assistant received a call from an unknown person saying “you must tell Zuma that we are going to kill him, we will also kill his children.”

“My life, my children’s and my lawyers’ are now under threat,” he said.

On the first day of his testimony, Zuma said that he was the victim of conspiracies and years of “character assassination”, and he accused foreign intelligence agencies and spies of working against him.

In the “state capture” scandal, Zuma is accused of overseeing mass looting of state assets during his nine-year tenure before being ousted by the ruling ANC party in 2018.

He is due to continue giving evidence until Friday.

Led by judge Raymond Zondo, the inquiry is investigating a web of deals involving government officials, the Gupta family and state-owned companies.

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