South Africa: Zuma Denies Being 'King of Corruption'

Former South African president Jacob Zuma at the State Capture Inquiry on July 15, 2019.

Ex-President Jacob Zuma has appeared in court, claiming to have been the victim of a campaign of vilification. He faces corruption charges over military equipment he sold as a minister in the 1990s.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma faces corruption charges relating to his nine years in power.

His supporters and opponents have been gathering outside the court in Parktown, Johannesburg, where he began his testimony on Monday.

"I have been vilified and alleged to be the king of corruption," Zuma told the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Monday morning.

"This commission, from my understanding, was really created to have me coming here, and perhaps to find things on me," Zuma said in his opening remarks. "There has been a drive to remove me from the scene, a wish that I should disappear."

Zuma was ousted as president by his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), in February 2018. The charges include allowing the Gupta family and other supporters to wangle state resources for their own business uses.

He had set up the commission before he was pushed out of power, after two years of political pressure.

He is also accused of allowing the family to influence government appointments while he was president.

In a separate case, Zuma is accused of corruption charges linking to military equipment he sold in the 1990s.

Read more: Opinion: Nelson Mandela party's last easy win in South Africa

The testimony will be broadcast across South Africa, and millions are expected to tune in. Zuma has always denied any wrongdoing; instead, he has alleged that the court is bent against him and that the trial is politically motivated.

$40 million bribe

Prosecutors said they interviewed witnesses over 130 days stretching throughout 2018 and the beginning of this year. Those included former members of Zuma's government.

Former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene told the court that Zuma manipulated state energy policies to benefit the Gupta family.

He allegedly pushed nuclear energy policies that would have benefited the family, who owned a uranium mine in the country. The Guptas owned a multitude of mining, media and technology firms in South Africa.

They left South Africa for Dubai soon after Zuma was pushed out of power, and formerly employed Zuma's son, Duduzane. He was found not guilty of culpable homicide and negligent driving in July 2019.

Read more: South Africa's power family, the Guptas: What you need to know

A former deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jones, testified that the Gupta family offered him the job of finance minister. He said they threatened to kill him when he refused a $40 million bribe from them.

"A new dawn"

ANC support dropped for the first time since the 90s to a level where their election victory was in doubt.

Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma's successor and former deputy, has called his presidency a "new era" for South Africa, and has made new appointments in government ministries and state-owned companies.

Zuma's testimony is expected to last until Friday.

jns/rc (AP, Reuters)

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