During the second day of his testimony before the Zondo Commission, former president Jacob Zuma has argued that - similar to former state protocol chief Bruce Koloane name-dropping him - ministers who have given testimony that has implicated him could have also been name dropping.
Zuma was responding to a question from the commission’s legal head Paul Pretorius who asked him to give clarity on allegations made by former Government Communication Information Systems (GCIS) chief executive officer, Themba Maseko.
Maseko, while giving testimony before the commission in August last year, alleged that Zuma had removed him from his role in the GCIS because he was unwilling to “enable the Gupta family.”
Maseko claimed the former president had called the late former minister Collins Chabane and instructed him to remove Maseko in favour of a more susceptible individual.
Zuma said “it makes no sense for me to have left the country as alleged and then made a call while I was out of the country to inform the former minister of something. I could have told him while I was in the country.”
Adding that “as this commission is now well aware from a previous witness [Koloane] who testified last week and said he used the president’s name to lie, I assume that ministers could also have used my name.”
Proceedings were dominated by the former president facing questions relating to the Guptas’ alleged attempt at using their proximity to Zuma to try and influence Maseko.
On Monday, Zuma said he didn’t remember instructing Maseko to help the Guptas, but does not dispute that he might have made the call.
He maintained on Tuesday that he did not remember hearing the Guptas saying they enjoyed government support regarding their media venture.
Maseko said in his testimony he received a call from Chabane who informed him that “the president wanted him removed from GCIS on January 2011.”
The commission questioned Zuma on this, but he claimed Chabane did not discuss with him the causes as to why the director-general’s were being shifted and why Maseko was also moved.
Zuma said he did not remember why or how Maseko was moved from GCIS, but thinks his removal could have been because “at the time there were many moves to strategically place individuals in areas where their strengths lay.”
Zuma’s lawyer Thabani Masuku interjected and argued that Zuma’s legal team was now of the view that the former president was being cross examined and not being asked to provide his own version of events.
“Zuma has not been treated in a similar manner as other witnesses, what is going on is of criminal interest,” Masuku said.
When Maseko appeared before the commission, he claimed that Ajay Gupta knew about the GCIS’ R600-million advertisement budget which was confidential government information.
Maseko said the Gupta brother also informed him that Zuma would “sort out” any ministers who refused to hand over their advertising budget to him.
Maseko claimed his removal was a punishment and his position was to be given to Duduzane Zuma [Zuma’s son]. However, Zuma claimed he was not the cause of Maseko’s removal