Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2003-08-15 Reporter: Sapa

Zuma Breaks His Silence



Mail and Guardian

Date 2003-08-15



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Deputy President Jacob Zuma has today responded to questions from the Scorpions investigation unit, who are probing allegations that he solicited a R500 000 bribe from a company involved in SA's multi-billion rand arms deal.

Zuma said he had "responded to all the questions that I consider to be relevant to the arms deal investigation which I believe to be the subject matter of this investigation."

He said he had requested that the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa "explain the relevance to the arms deal, of the questions which intrude into my private life and private relationships with other people, and those which suggest an investigation into the affairs of the ANC. It is such questions and the nature of the investigation itself that has made me to question the real motives."

Zuma said in his statement that he had found it "strange and puzzling" that of the 35 questions the Scorpions had posed, "not a single one of them asks me to respond to this key allegation."

Zuma said in the statement that it had been alleged that he attended a meeting in Durban on 11 March 2000 with Schabir Shaik and Alain Thetard of Thomson CSF.

Zuma said that it was at this meeting that he had allegedly solicited the bribe.

" ... I did not meet Mr Thetard on 11 March 2000. I have never had any discussions with any French company or individual about finances.

"The allegations apparently arise from an encrypted fax, which originated in French and was translated into English, I have since gathered. I have never seen the alleged fax which is said to have been prepared in the French language, and do not know whether such a document actually exists. My lawyers have asked the NPA for handwritten and typed copies of the document in the French language. Surely, if the Scorpions know the identity of the author of the letter, they should have sought clarity from him or her and resolved the matter by now," he said in his statement.

He reiterated that he had never attempted to solicit any bribe, had never used his public office to advance the private business interest of any person, and had never discussed with Schabir or anyone else, the issue of protecting Thomson/Thales or any other company or individual from the investigation of the Joint Investigation Team into the Strategic Defence Procurement.

"It is mind boggling as to how anyone could manage to influence an investigation that was being conducted by three different agencies," he said in the statement.

The Scorpions had asked to Zuma to reply to the questions by July 30, to which he replied that he would respond at his earliest convenience.

The investigation has rocked South Africa in recent weeks. Zuma was furious that the list of questions was leaked to the Sunday Times, and has claimed constant leaks from the Scorpions were "designed to cast aspersions on my integrity".

National Director of Public Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, and Justice Minister Penuell Maduna have denied the questions were leaked by the unit. The Scorpions operate under Ngcuka.

Zuma said the allegations against him were "baseless, defamatory and grossly unfair."

"I have for the last three years endured the investigation by the NPA, which was secret at first. I maintained my silence as I hoped the investigation would be concluded expediently.

"My only quarrel with the investigation, as said before, has been the methods employed. I am also concerned about double standards of commentators who have remained silent over the last three years and have not questioned the length of time the probe has taken," he said in the statement.

"This investigation reminds me of Shakespeare's Macbeth when he said after a long soliloquy: '... It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,' he added.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and the Mail & Guardian.