Former President Jacob Zuma said his relationship with the Gupta family was nothing more than “just being friends,” clarifying his relationship with the controversial Gupta family.
Zuma has been fingered as the key figure in a series of scandals that have rocked South Africa as a result of his alleged close links to the family.
He said he was still deputy president when he was introduced to the family by former Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad.
“I found them to be a very friendly family. They knew a lot of comrades. I got to know that in fact, they were close with Nelson Mandela.
When Mandela was gone, they were friends with Thabo Mbeki,” Zuma explained.
“I’ve never done anything unlawful with them. They just remained friends,” he said.
Zuma said he did not understand why people had a problem with the relationship he had with the family, but not with the previous presidents.
“In fact the Gupta’s were more close to Mbeki.”
On the controversial landing of an aircraft carrying the Gupta family and friends at the Waterkloof airbase, Zuma said he was not even aware where the family was going to land.
He, also denounced Ngoako Ramatlhodi’s claims that he had allowed for the family to land at the Waterkloof Air Base Force.
“Comrade Ngoake never asked me whether I talked to them and allowed them to “land there,” he said.
Zuma also alleged that Ramatlhodi’ was an apartheid-era spy.
On the New Age newspaper and ANN7
Zuma said the Gupta-owned newspaper the New Age and TV channel, ANN7, were established to offer an “alternative voice,” as the SA media houses had a tendency to be “biased”
Zuma said he approached the controversial family, with a “suggestion” of starting a media business.
“… Because you are comrades and we needed an alternative voice. There were many attempts that have been made before by progressive people but have never worked.”
He said he asked the family if it was possible to establish a newspaper.
Zuma added that he informed then-ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe and Jessy Duarte of this plan.
“They never thought of the idea. We discussed this and finally said it was a good idea because it was business as well.”
When they were moving forward they said can you help give us a name for the newspaper? I said there used to be struggle publications we had…”The New Age” – they loved this name,” Zuma said.
Zuma said the establishment of the newspaper would have helped because he believes the media industry was just too “negative” and did not report on issues that it was meant to.
When I saw how successful the newspaper was, I said, man, what about a TV channel,” Zuma said referring to ANN7.
He added that ANN7 brought a “fresh air in the state.”
Responding to assertions that the Gupta family influenced cabinet appointments, Zuma said: “Never did I discuss anything with them. I’m told the Guptas were appointing Ministers- where? Was I not capable of doing my work?”
Zuma added that his family has suffered because of the string of allegations against him.
Zuma said, his one son, Sadi, got an opportunity with Gupta-owned Sahara Computers, without the former president’s knowledge, after being hounded out of employment because of his Zuma name.