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Zuma: I’ve never done anything unlawful with the Guptas

Zuma has been named as a key figure in a number of scandals that have played out over some years as a result of his alleged close links to the family.

Former President Jacob Zuma at the state capture commission on 15 July 2019. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – Former President Jacob Zuma on Monday said his relationship with the Gupta family was nothing more than just being friends. He was clarifying his relationship with the controversial Gupta family.

Zuma has been named as a key figure in a number of scandals that have played out over some years as a result of his alleged close links to the family.

He said he first met the family while he was still deputy president by former Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad.

"I found them to be a very friendly family. They knew a lot of comrades. I got to know that in fact, they were close with Nelson Mandela. When Mandela was gone, they were friends with Thabo Mbeki.

“I’ve never done anything unlawful with them. They just remained friends,” he said.

Zuma said he did not understand why people had a problem with the relationship he had with the family, but not with the previous presidents.

The controversial landing of an aircraft carrying family and friends of the Guptas at the Waterkloof airbase made its way back to the headlines again when the former head of state protocol Bruce Koloane admitted to using Zuma's name to put pressure on Department of Defence officials to authorise the landing.

In a recording, Koloane said that then Transport Minister Ben Martins had been given instructions by Zuma to authorise the Gupta landing.

Prior to Kolaoane, Ngoako Ramatlhodi also claimed that Zuma allowed for the Gupta family to land at the airbase.

He said he was not even aware where the family was going to land

He, again, came for Ramatlhodi's claims that he had allowed for the family to land at the Waterkloof Air Base Force.

"Comrade Ngoake never asked me whether I talked to them and allowed them to "land there," he said.

THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NEW AGE, ANN7

The former African National Congress president said the Gupta-owned newspaper the New Age and channel, ANN7, were established to offer an “alternative voiced” in the existing media industry.
Zuma said he approached the controversial family, with a “suggestion” of starting a media business.

“…Because you are comrades and we needed an alternative voice. There were many attempts that have been made before by progressive people but have never worked.”

He said he asked the family if it was possible to establish a newspaper.

“They never thought of the idea. We discussed this and finally said it was a good idea because it was business as well.”

Zuma said the establishment of the newspaper would have helped because he believes the media industry was just too “negative” and did not report on issues that it was meant to.

In another scandal related to the ANN7 channel, Sundaram said that the Gupta family used their friendship with Zuma to buy historic archive material from the SABC worth millions of rands for far less than the material's value.

Sundaram also alleged that Zuma was involved in the day-to-day running of ANN7.

'WE'LL SHUT DOWN THE ECONOMY'

Zuma also told the commission that minister Fikile Mbalula once told him that businessman Johan Rupert threatened to bring the economy to the ground if Zuma fired Pravin Gordhan.

He told the inquiry that Mbalula once gave him a message from Rupert.

"One day comrade Mbalula attended an activity in the home of Mr Rupert. When Rupert saw him, he was the sports minister at the time, he said: 'If Zuma removes Pravin Gordhan, we’ll shut down the economy'."

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