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Former South African President Jacob Zuma testifies at the Zondo anti-corruption commission in Johannesburg Former South African President Jacob Zuma appears before the Zondo Commission to respond to allegations of corruption during his presidency, in Johannesburg, July 15, 2019. (Pool Photo by Wikus de Wet via AP Images)

Zuma’s Testimony to South Africa’s Corruption Inquiry Further Divides the ANC

Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019

Former South African President Jacob Zuma seems to have decided that given his dire circumstances, with his reputation in freefall and a corruption trial pending, attack is his best form of defense. Over two days in mid-July in Johannesburg, he appeared before the Zondo Commission, which was launched by Zuma’s successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, last year to investigate the rampant corruption—what is known in South Africa as “state capture”—during Zuma’s troubled presidency. State capture is shorthand for how Zuma allegedly allowed close private business interests to exercise undue influence at the highest levels of government, including over appointments and dismissals at state-owned enterprises and even within his own Cabinet.

The Zondo Commission’s work poses a threat not only to Zuma but to his allies and the wider patronage networks in the ruling African National Congress that oppose the leadership of Ramaphosa, who has promised to clean things up. State capture undermined South Africa’s constitutional order, and the plundering it entailed opens up the possibility of criminal prosecutions for those involved. Zuma initially preferred to shun the anti-corruption commission entirely, because he anticipated, correctly, that his appearance at any public hearing would only further complicate his already exposed position. However, its high profile and official status as a judicial commission of inquiry meant that was not a realistic option politically, even if he was not legally required to attend. Most South Africans would also have considered any hearings into corruption during the Zuma era without the input of Zuma himself to be absurd. ...

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