/ 11 December 2003

Zuma’s affidavit sees the light of day

Deputy President Jacob Zuma has been drawn into the Hefer Inquiry into whether National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka abused his official powers.

Advocate Steven Joseph, for Ngcuka’s main accusers Mac Maharaj and Mo Shaik, submitted two pages of a sworn affidavit by Zuma to Judge Joos Hefer’s commission on Thursday. He said it was with the deputy president’s permission.

This was despite Zuma’s earlier indication to Hefer that he did not wish to use his inquiry to address his complaints about Ngcuka. Hefer consequently announced that it was not necessary for the deputy president to testify before him.

In the affidavit Joseph submitted to Hefer, Zuma alleged a mediation attempt by Ngcuka during his Scorpions unit’s investigation against him (Zuma) and Durban businessman Schabir Shaik.

The affidavit was initially filed at the Pretoria High Court. It was part of Zuma’s application to obtain an encrypted fax from the Scorpions. The fax, from a French company, allegedly implicated the deputy president in bribery related to government’s multi-billion rand arms procurement deal.

The case was settled before a hearing could be held and the supporting documents, including the particular affidavit, had never been publicly revealed.

According to the affidavit Ngcuka allegedly suggested to Zuma, through a lawyer, that he could make the investigation (against Zuma) go away. For this to happen, the deputy president had to agree to answer certain questions and Shaik had to plead guilty to some minor charges, Ngcuka allegedly implied.

Ngcuka has already denied this alleged mediation attempt earlier in an answering affidavit to Zuma’s Pretoria High Court application. He again denied it in his testimony before Hefer on Thursday.

Ngcuka further disputed on Thursday earlier evidence by Maharaj that he had attempted similar mediation with him (Maharaj).

The former transport minister is being investigated by the Scorpions for alleged corruption. He earlier told Hefer that Ngcuka had suggested that this investigation would be terminated if he (Maharaj) convinced Zuma and Shaik to cooperate with the Scorpions. Maharaj complained that Ngcuka had ”held him to ransom” with the alleged mediation offer.

Joseph maintained on Thursday that he wanted to use Zuma’s allegation to prove a pattern of mediation attempts by Ngcuka. Hefer allowed Zuma’s earlier affidavit to be accepted as evidence before his commission. He warned, however, that Joseph was ”testing his patience” by focusing on alleged power abuse by Ngcuka which could not be linked to the spy claim against him. – Sapa