The son of South Africa’s ex-president Jacob Zuma, accused by witnesses of acting as a conduit in a major web of state graft, said on Tuesday he was not corrupt but a victim of political crossfire.
Duduzane Zuma, 35, was testifying before a judicial inquiry probing allegations that his father organised a systematic plunder of government coffers in a scandal known as “state capture”.
“I’m looked at as a criminal, I’m looked at as this face of corruption, this guy that’s plundered trillions out of this country,” Zuma said as he wrapped his two-day testimony.
“So I just like to say to the public out there I’m not corrupt, I have not taken money from anybody, I never have and I never will.”
He has been named in the media and by various witnesses that have appeared before the inquiry, as having been a channel for the Guptas, a wealthy migrant business family that allegedly had a corrupt relationship with his father.
While Zuma was in office, the Guptas won lucrative contracts with state companies and allegedly held sway over his choice of cabinet ministers.
Zuma, whose father was president for nine years before he was forced to resign early last year over the graft scandals, said he believed he was a caught up in a national political battle.
“We will all be fooling ourselves to think that there hasn’t been political play in the background.
“I believe I’m unfortunately caught in a political storm,” he said.
– ‘Not a criminal’ –
Former president Zuma’s successor President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to tackle corruption in South Africa, which has been led by the ANC party since Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994 after the end of apartheid.
On Monday, Zuma, who was business partner with the Guptas, dismissed testimonies of previous witnesses, including that of a former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.
Jonas had said he was offered a $40-million bribe by one of the Gupta brothers Ajay, at a meeting arranged by Duduzane Zuma, for a promotion to the position of full minister in exchange for business favours.
Last year Duduzane Zuma was briefly arrested on charges of corruption and conspiracy to commit corruption, at Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo International airport as he flew into the country.
But charges were later provisionally withdrawn and Zuma told the commission he is “aggrieved” over the “wrongful arrest”.
His father was forced to set up the commission in January 2018, shortly before he left office, after failing in a legal battle to overturn the instructions of the country’s ethics ombudsman.
Led by the country’s deputy chief justice, the commission has been holding hearings since last year and is due to complete a report next year that may lead to criminal prosecutions.
Duduzane Zuma complained to the inquiry that he was not given a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations raised by the country’s ombudswoman.
Zuma’s father, Jacob, testified at the same inquiry in July but withdrew on grounds that he had been “treated as someone who was accused” according to his lawyers. But he later agreed to return at a future date.