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South Africa’s Zuma slams graft report as gossip, irrational

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South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma, fingered to be a graft enabler, on Saturday rubbished as “unlawful” and “full of gossip” a judicial report detailing how rampant corruption gutted state coffers during his nine-year-tenure.

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Known as state capture, the web of corruption hollowed out state companies in the continent’s most advanced economy, to the benefit of a few wealthy individuals and companies.

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Zuma’s foundation spokesman Mzwanele Manyi told a media conference Zuma regarded the report as “unlawful and highly irrational.”

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“It is predictably full of gossip, innuendo and conjecture. It is very short on concrete evidence,” said Manyi.

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“The report is therefore a classical case of the fruits of a poisoned tree.”

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Zuma himself had been billed to attend the press conference, but his lawyers said they had advised him at the last minute to not attend to avoid violating his parole conditions.

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He set up the special probe panel himself, after a damning report by the national ombudswoman about corruption at state enterprises forced his hand.

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The report which accuses Zuma of being “a critical player” in the plan to pillage state firms through the Gupta family of business tycoons.

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Two of the three Indian migrant brothers who fled the country the same year the corruption probe started four years ago, were arrested earlier this month in Dubai pending extradition to South Africa.

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Zuma briefly appeared before the investigators, but walked out and refused to return to answer questions.

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His refusal to testify prompted a showdown at the Constitutional Court, which ordered his imprisonment in July 2021 for contempt.

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His incarceration sparked riots in which more than 350 people lost their lives – the deadliest unrest of the democratic era in South Africa. He was released after two months on medical parole.

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