Zuma tells Zondo: My life is under threat

Former president Jacob Zuma began his testimony on Tuesday by saying his family and legal team had received death threats. (Reuters)

Former president Jacob Zuma began his testimony on Tuesday by saying his family and legal team had received death threats. (Reuters)

The second day of former president Jacob Zuma’s appearance at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture started with the revelation that he, his family and his counsel have received threats on their lives.

On Tuesday, Zuma told the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — that his personal assistant at the ANC received a phone call from an unidentified person who allegedly threatened to kill the former president and members of his family.

Zuma added that his counsel, Muzi Sikhakhane SC, has also received threats on his life in the lead-up to his client’s appearance before the commission.

The revelation comes after Zuma told the commission on Monday of a decades-old conspiracy by foreign and local intelligence organisations to topple him from power.

“There’s been a drive to remove me from the scene,” Zuma told the commission.

“A wish that I would disappear and I will explain where it comes from and why, perhaps it is important that I deal with in this commission, and it arises out of perhaps my work in the ANC and also because of who I am.”

In response to the alleged threats on Zuma’s life, Zondo denounced efforts to intimidate the commission’s witnesses.

“If there is anything that the commission can do, it should be done ...
It is totally unacceptable for anybody in our society to want to use violence, intimidation and all kinds of illegal means when they are unhappy about anybody,” Zondo said.

He added: “And all good people in this country must take a stand against the use of violence and intimidation. I am happy that whatever threats have been made haven’t made Mr Zuma to change his mind about giving evidence.”

Zondo also decried the alleged threats on Sikhakhane, who indicated he did not want to speak on the matter.

“One of the traditions of the bar is that advocates represent anyone and everyone who needs legal representation,” Zondo said.

“And when lawyers are representing their clients, they are just doing their jobs.”

This is not the first time the Zondo commission’s witnesses have revealed that they have been on the receiving end of threats on their lives.

Last year former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor broke down in tears while telling the commission that she feared for her safety in the wake of her own testimony.

Zondo responded to Mentor’s fears with concern: “Your evidence implicates various people. For all we know they might come here and refute your claims. You are concerned about your safety and you are right to be concerned.”

Among those implicated in Mentor’s evidence is Zuma, who she alleged emerged from a room in the Gupta family’s Saxonwold home after Gupta patriarch, Ajay, offered her the position of public enterprises minister in exchange for her co-operation in shutting down the South African Airways Mumbai route.

It is expected that Zuma will be questioned about Mentor’s allegation this week.

More recently, former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi revealed that he had received numerous threats on his life in the lead up to his bombshell testimony at the commission.

Agrizzi’s appearance before the commission had to be kept under wraps on account of these alleged threats.

The former Bosasa COO told the commission that he has become used to the threats. “I have been very flippant about any threats … I take it in my stride now. It is going to happen ... I have been cautioned that perhaps I should take these more seriously,” he said.

Zuma’s name was mentioned by Agrizzi a number of times during the course of his lengthy testimony. Agrizzi alleged that Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson was close to the former president.

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law. Read more from Sarah Smit

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