Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, has told an inquiry into corruption allegations that he has been the victim of a “character assassination” campaign by enemies seeking his removal from power.
Zuma, who resigned last year following an internal battle at the ruling African National Congress (ANC), appeared before a state commission on Monday to respond to allegations that he allowed cronies to plunder state resources and influence senior government appointments during his nine years in office.
He has consistently denied wrongdoing, saying the allegations against him are politically motivated.
In his opening remarks, which were televised, Zuma said he had been “vilified” and subjected to “character assassination” as part of a conspiracy by opponents seeking his downfall.
“This commission, from my understanding, was really created to have me coming here, and perhaps to find things on me,” Zuma said. “There has been a drive to remove me from the scene, a wish that I should disappear.”
Zuma, who was not legally required to appear before the commission, struck a relaxed tone ahead of his appearance, which could last for up to five days. He tweeted a video on Sunday of himself dancing and singing “Zuma must fall” before laughing heartily.
The commission, led by Judge Raymond Zondo, said last month that Zuma was invited to appear “to enable him to give his side of the story”. It is investigating a web of deals involving government officials, the wealthy Gupta family and state-owned companies.
Speaking at the start of Monday’s hearing, Zondo thanked Zuma for attending, and said: “The commission is not mandated to prove any case against anybody but is mandated to investigate and inquire into certain allegations.”
Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Johannesburg, said Zuma sounded angry and defiant during his first day, claiming people have been spying on him and tried poisoning him because he knows too much from his days in the intelligence agencies(ALJAZERA)