Former president Jacob Zuma has told the state capture commission on inquiry that there has been a conspiracy to remove him since the 1990s.
"There has been a process, particularly against Jacob Zuma - a conspiracy," he said on Monday morning.
Zuma, who has been implicated by several witnesses who testified before the commission, started by giving the inquiry background to his evidence. He is expected to be on the stand until Friday.
After an exchange between Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, evidence leader Paul Pretorius and Zuma's representative, Muzi Sikhakhane, the former president started his lengthy address.
When Zuma, dressed in a black suit and red tie, stepped into the commission's venue on Monday morning, his supporters gave him a round of applause and chanted, "Zuma! Zuma! Zuma!"
He had the support of his family, Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association spokesperson Carl Niehaus and former Cabinet minister Des van Rooyen. Both showed him support during his court appearances in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court.
The former president told Zondo there was a long-running conspiracy to remove him.
"There has been a drive to remove me from the scene. A wish that I should disappear," he said.
"I have been vilified, alleged to be the king of corrupt people. I have been given every other name and I have never responded to those issues. Firstly, because I believe it is important that we all respect one another."
Zuma said in the 1990s he received an intelligence report which stated that there were three intelligence organisations that met and discussed him. He did not name the organisations.
Zuma, who was the chief of intelligence of the ANC at the time, said the three organisations started a process of "character assassination" against him. "The reason why we want to character assassinate Zuma's character, was because he has a lot of information that he holds."Among that type of information (as chief of intelligence), there are spies that are infiltrated by us in his organisation."
He told the commission that these spies were to be nurtured in the ANC so that they could one day lead the party.
Zuma also used the opportunity to raise concerns about the establishment of the commission, saying that when it was proposed or recommended by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela there were certain things he was unhappy about because of the manner in which they were handled.
The former president once again stated his belief that it was wrong for Madonsela to suggest that the chief justice appoint the head of the commission, as opposed to the head of state at the time, Zuma himself.
Zuma questioned what defined the state in relation to the term state capture.
"I thought that the state is composed of three arms - Parliament, [the] judiciary and the executive," Zuma told Zondo.
"Why do we call it a state capture? Is that expression meaning the judges are captured? Is Parliament captured?" he asked.
Following a tea break, Zuma told the commission he had survived several attempts on his life.
The hearing continues.