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MUST WATCH: Duduzane Zuma in BBC interview: ‘I’m glad I met the Guptas’

JOHANNESBURG — Son of President Jacob Zuma, Dubai-based Duduzane Zuma, has been eerily silent as the Gupta email leaks saga has continued to deliver bombshell allegations on an almost weekly basis. Duduzane finds himself as the central actor and go-between in the Guptas’ capture of the state. But South African media houses’ attempts to get in touch with him have typically been met with no response. Suddenly this week, Duduzane has come out and started talking. For many South Africans, this interview will probably be the first time they’ve ever heard him talk. Earlier this week, he also released a statement in which he hit out at former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Duduzane, in that statement, revealed that his South African bank accounts are all closed. (But there’s no doubt that his Dubai bank accounts are still open.) Further to this, he’s also granted an interview with the BBC. When the BBC asked if him if he is corrupt, Duduzane denied the allegation. Duduzane also went on to talk about the Guptas as if they are his ‘brothers’. And Duduzane, like his father, seems unapologetic over what he’s done. A must-watch. – Gareth van Zyl

Hey, Duduzane, how are you?

All right, and yourself?

Are you okay?

Good.

It’s good to see you.

The pleasure’s mine. It’s good to see you too.

Please, go through. How did you meet the Guptas? Were you introduced by dad, President Jacob Zuma?

I met the Guptas many years ago. I was not introduced to them. I came across them. They happened to be in the vicinity. At that point, they were in the house meeting with my father and, like many people I’ve met in that space, I met them.

So, you met them through your father?

That’s correct, sir.

When you look back, following the dramatic events of these corruption allegation story of state capture, when you look back and think to yourself, why did these guys hook me up?

That’s a question I think they’d be better placed to answer.

What do you do, Duduzane Zuma, think the Guptas wanted from you?

I don’t think they wanted anything from me. I think they liked me, as I liked them and I think I’m a likeable guy.

But why did they like you, do you think?

That’s a question you’d have to ask them. I don’t know. I think I’m a likeable guy. There’s nothing untoward about it. There’s no unpacking the relationship and what was in it for them and what was in it for me. It was just a meeting of minds. They understood me and I understood them.

Meeting Duduzane Zuma. More of Zaoiro’s magic availbale at his website www.zapiro.com.

You don’t look back and say, maybe they wanted me because I’m the son of the President?

I look back and I think I’m glad I met these guys and I’m glad we are where we are today.

Then we had this bolt out of the blue in 2015, where the Deputy Minister of Finance, Mcebisi Jonas, comes out and tells the public that he was offered a bribe by the Guptas in your presence. Were you present that day? Was Mcebisi Jonas offered a bribe by the Guptas?

Mr Jonas was not offered a bribe by the Guptas. I did meet them, I was present – there was no such thing that took place.

So, what was the purpose of his visit then?

It wasn’t a visit, per say, it was a meeting that was arranged from my side, to sort out certain issues that had nothing to do with the Guptas or any other related people to them.

So, you are clear. It’s either you telling the truth or he’s lying?

That’s absolutely correct.

So, which is it?

I’m telling the truth.

So, we saw there was a problem with the Finance Minister as well, Pravin Gordhan, and you have subsequently written an open letter to him. In that open letter to the former Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, you wrote, and I quote, “How do you sleep at night?” Well, some are wondering whether in fact, you should be responding to that question. Can you?

Of how I sleep at night? I sleep very well. Do I have moments of being sad about the situation, being irritated about it, being disappointed by it? Definitely. Upset, definitely not. There are 7.500 employees we’ve been fighting for that is definitely on my mind. That is definitely on my partner’s minds. That’s definitely on the employees’ minds. Now, one can be relaxed in that situation. Do I get rest? I have to get rest, I’m a human being but these things do affect my train of thought and that’s something I wake up to every day of what’s going to happen or what’s the next move. It’s not an easy position but it’s a position that we stepped up to, and we’ll fulfil what we need to fulfil, whichever way the situation goes because at the end of the day people need to understand that this is not about me. It’s not about the former Minister Gordhan. It’s not about the Guptas. This is about the plight of the people of the country. This is a scenario that is unfolding. It’s been unfolding for many years. It’s just come to boiling point now, I think.

Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan

Why have you decided to speak out now if it’s been going on for many years?

The decision for me to speak out, at this point, I think it’s gotten to a level where a line has to be drawn. There’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s open letter season. It’s press conference season. It’s Parliamentary Committee season, its investigation season – it’s threats. It’s heckling season, it’s interruption season and there’s a lot going on and I feel like I’ve been a part of this process. I have to step up and now is a right time to step up. Why? Because we’re in an interesting time in our country. There’s a lot happening politically. There’s a lot happening economically but people have been saying that this guy doesn’t have a voice. We don’t know his opinions, how has he formed them, and what are his views on certain things or elements? We’re in an interesting time in the world and I feel like look, I have something small to contribute and if that something small is shedding light on what is happening, through my experiences, and how we can avoid situations like this – then I’m keen. I’m in and we’re going to do the damn thing.

You are the son of the SA President, and you are here in Dubai. Why are you here? Do you have a property here?

Firstly, I’m on business here. Secondly, Dubai is a wonderful place, and I’m sure you’d agree. Thirdly, I do not have a property in Dubai. I do not own an apartment in the Burj Khalifa.

Does your father own a house or an apartment here?

My father owns a house. It’s in Nkandla, this area is called Nkandla, it’s in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. In Dubai, he does not own any property whatsoever.

Did the Guptas buy a property on his behalf?

I think my father is a grown man. He does not need anyone buying any properties on his behalf, including myself.

I’m sure you’ve been following the story of the leaked emails.

Yes.

In the leaked in emails there are quotes there that you have an apartment in the Burj Khalifa, right here in Dubai, and that a house was bought on behalf of your father. Is that true?

Mr Nkosi, you’re sitting here with me, I’m not sure when it is that you’ll be travelling back but we’ve got time. We can go to the Burj Khalifa, we can go to any of these places. We can go to any Deeds’ Offices in Dubai and we can verify that and check it. That’s my answer to your question, sir.

Read also: Mailbox: Duduzane Zuma, us taxpayers want timeshare on your R18m Dubai flat

But there’s no property under a company that is linked to you or linked to the Guptas, perhaps on your behalf? I just want to clarify that because that has been in the media for many weeks now.

I do not own any property. My father does not own any property in this beautiful country or beautiful, should I say. As far as I’m concerned, the Guptas have three brothers. I’m not sure if there are any other Guptas in this wonderful place but none of us own any properties.

I hope that, because you know the importance of these issues, perhaps you would allow me a little bit of leniency in asking this question. Mr Zuma, are you corrupt?

Mr Nkosi, I’m not corrupt. I’ve not involved myself in any corrupt practice or any corrupt business. If you’re looking for my place of operation it’s been widely reported, there are officers and the operations running with it, smiling. Well, whether it was media because as you know, we’re selling. Unfortunately, so, but we’ve been left no choice.

Why are you selling?

Because undue pressure has been put on us, on our businesses, to get to a position where we are left no choice but to sell. In a nutshell, selling is not something we wanted to do. Well, I speak for myself, selling is not something that I wanted to do and I’m sure my brothers will feel that way too. It’s something that has…  The events have overtaken us and we are selling purely because we want to protect the 7.500 jobs, their families that are being supported by these people. We’re trying to protect our people and people that have been loyal to us, that’s the employees and management. At this point, we’re feeling if we need to sell, if those people are going to be protected. If the company bank accounts are going to be reopened under new ownership, which I feel they should be because the people in question are ourselves, as the owners of these businesses, then so be it. But if people are asking me if I’m corrupt – they’re more then welcome to visit my current or previous places of operation. Standing, fully fledged and operationalised, and they’ve been doing well. I think we’ve done quite a good job getting to where they’re at now.

You said you want to clear your name. If you are so keen to clear your name, why don’t you write an affidavit and get ready for the Commission of Enquiry?

For the simple reason being, I’m not the one who dictates what goes where, how it happens, the processes. As it unfolds, I’m available. We’re available and we’ve said this, and that’s what we continue to say. Being subjected to kangaroo courts and being political footballers, it hasn’t assisted in the situation. If you look at state capture as an idea, it’s an interesting concept. I think where a lot of people have got it wrong. It’s been longstanding. Has it been by us? Definitely not. If people want to get to the bottom of exactly what is going on, they need to open it up, and I think that was a discussion and a debate that happened. I’m saying opening it up – that includes ourselves. Whatever it is that needs to be done we’ll do so. We’ll be subjected to it and we’re going to do it willingly.

But you don’t see anything wrong in the information, for example, contained on the leaked Gupta emails that public money was taken from a Provincial Government in the Free State, which went to a Gupta company. That company was built by the Guptas, for their lavish wedding at Sun City. You don’t see anything wrong with that?

Who said this, sir?

Well, it’s in the emails.

Not in a court of law.

I haven’t seen it in a court of law.

That’s my point, exactly. A lot of allegations…  

It doesn’t have to be in a court of law to be true.

Of course. The truth has to be tested. At this point it’s been one sided, the veracity, the authenticity of the emails.

So, you don’t believe that the emails are authentic?

What I’m saying is, there’s a Judicial Commission of Enquiry that’s been spoken about. When that happens, we’ll get to that.

#GuptaLeaks. More of Zapiro’s magic available on his website www.zapiro.com

I’m just asking specifically, about the emails because some ministers have actually agreed that the emails, the information contained in the emails is genuine. You’re not challenging that, are you?

You can speak to them. I don’t know what they’re speaking about. I’m speaking for myself. These emails need to be tested or have they been doctored? Have they been fiddled with? True or not, that’s not something I’m getting into. What I’m saying is that when the time arrives we’ll get to that and that’s something that will be, I’m sure, thrown into the basket of the Judicial Commissioner of Enquiry. So, we’ll see then. At this point, it’s not something I can comment on.

There’s been a lot of talk that you are now very wealthy because of your businesses, and someone said you are a billionaire. Is that true are you a billionaire?

In love, definitely. Have I succeeded? Not at the level that I believe I will. We have reached some interesting and some major milestones, whether people like it or not, and my business journey has only begun. Like I said, I’m 35, and I’ve still got a long way to go so, that question is very difficult at this point. I think when we sit down in the next 20 to 30 years, I’ll have a much clearer answer for you.

Does it bother you that at such a relatively young age that you’ve amassed so much wealth, in such a short space of time? Do you not see why people are concerned in SA, about this behaviour? That you are the son of the president and you end up getting business deals, largely from public sector entities which are funded by taxpayer’s money, and you become, therefore wealthy as a result. Does that not concern you that connecting the dots, which Pravin Gordhan has been talking about?

No, it doesn’t concern me at all, zero concern, and the reason I say that, as I pointed out earlier on. It’s been a long hard journey that we’ve been on and I’m saying ‘we’ – I’m not speaking for myself, because I’ve got partners and we’ve walked this journey together. For example, people like saying I’m born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and that sort of thing. No, I’m not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. It’s something that I’ve had to work for. The decision I took to partner up with the brothers, that of the Gupta family, actually no, the brothers. The Gupta family is wide ranging – there’s a lot of Guptas on this planet. It’s a decision that I took and I do not regret and I’m super happy with. For example, if you look at Tegeta, which we bought over from the Optima Mines. There’s been a whole range of discussions of corruption and favouritism and the processes were not followed. There are a lot of times where we’ve tried to put the story across and people are not picking it up because they’re not interested in the truth. They’re not interested in exactly how the situation panned out. They’re not interested that at the time we took over Optima Coal, from Glencore, that mine was under care maintenance, it was under curatorship. We took it over. Please, go and take a look at the operation now, fully fledged, it’s expanding. People want to talk about prepayments. Oh, my God this guy has got this amount of prepayment and it’s corrupt. That’s been a regular practice at Eskom, which has been pointed out because that’s the entity in question, Eskom.

Eskom is the power utility in SA?

Yes, the power utility in SA, correct.

Which buys coal from your company, Tegeta?

From many companies, and we’re actually one of the smaller companies. Yes, they do buy coal from us but not nearly enough as the majors, not at all. We’ve said this. We’ve given the figures. We account for less than 8% of coal supply to Eskom, and we’ve only come onto their books in the past two years. There’ve been companies that have been supplying coal to Eskom for 40 years, no one is talking about those companies. Now, all I’m trying to say is, I’m not trying to point fingers because I’m not in the finger pointing business but all I’m saying is, if you want to get to the truth open it up.

Are you concerned that you may be, in the end, locked up following all these allegations, going to prison for corruption? Does that cross your mind?

It just crossed my mind now. It’s the first time it crossed it so, I don’t know if you saw it crossing my mind but it’s gone. No.

It doesn’t cross your mind?

Why should it, it just crossed now, since you mentioned it now, I saw it crossing and it’s gone.

Duduzane Zuma, thank you very much for joining us at BBC.

Thank you very much, sir, thank you.

Statement from Duduzane Zuma earlier this week:

Pravin Gordhan – How do you sleep at night?

Dear Pravin Gordhan

It gives me no pleasure to write this open letter, but the time for transparency is now.

Mr Gordhan, you were Finance Minister of this country for over six of the last eight years, yet take no responsibility for this country’s economic performance in that time. It is always somebody else’s fault.

While you were in charge at Treasury, starting in 2009, the South Africa economy flatlined, unemployment rose from 21% to 27% and national debt increased from 31% to a record 51%. These are the facts and history will judge you on them.

You have used various state bodies such as the FIC and the Reserve Bank to try and destroy me and my business colleagues with no proof of misconduct. Yet you accuse us of state capture.

You had no shame in wasting taxpayers’ money on your recent legal action, which everybody knew was a waste of time and taxpayers’ money – and which you lost. If you had any conscience you would pay those costs back personally, but you never will.

It has long been rumoured that you own shares in various large South African companies, especially financial services, an area where you have consistently blocked a state bank and more competition. Yet you made no public disclosure of your holdings or noted the potential for conflicts of interest with your decision-making.

All of my bank accounts have been closed by your “friends” in the banking industry. Likely with your support. Anybody can see that you are in bed with them, rather than on the side of hard-working South African citizens.

Let us deal with some key facts that the media has published but chooses largely to ignore:

· The Competition Commission charges monopoly businesses regularly in this country. Nothing ever happens to them. Instead they become part of “Save SA”
· The banks are charged with currency rigging and instead get immunity if they help the investigation
· ABSA still owes billions of Rand in interest from its previous corruption
· British American Tobacco is involved in a spying scandal in South Africa
· African Bank was declared bankrupt, people’s money was eaten. Then shareholders with government money restart the same bank and all debts are forgiven
· Construction companies are found guilty of billions of Rand of fraud at the FIFA World Cup – their bank accounts remain open
· The Integrated Financial Management System scandal occurred on your watch
· You released your Chief Procurement Officer Kenneth Brown and arranged a job for him at Standard Bank as Public Sector Head

Why are their bank accounts still open? Why are you not calling for inquiries and prosecutions? Yet you ignore all of this and persecute me and my business partners. However:

· There were no conclusive findings in the state capture report
· A Hawks investigation against me and Gupta family came up with no wrong doing
· The ANC invited all whistle blowers to report against me and my business colleagues – which came up with nothing

And still you say we are corrupt – and others are clean.

You are a conspiracy theorist who failed as a Minister of this great country. You grandstand in Parliament and embarrass this country. Do you not think that the people of this country can see what you are doing?

People are innocent until proven guilty. I challenge you – take me to Court if you think you have a case.

Also, you never, ever, want to acknowledge this, but the Gupta family and I have consistently welcomed a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into all state capture.

I, and the Gupta family, pledged 15 months ago to exit our South African investments to make sure the jobs of our fellow South Africans are protected. It has taken a while, but we have done it. You criticise this sale, as you don’t care about jobs for ordinary people, and if it doesn’t fit you and your political agenda.

How do you sleep at night? Does putting over 7,500 South Africans out of work even bother you?

You even criticised the new Mining Charter, which was created for the benefit of ordinary South Africans. You will always protect your friends in big business over the ordinary man.

The youth of this country that is desperate for hope and a chance to succeed, will eventually see you exposed for what you are.

I am selling my shares to be able to focus my time on clearing my name. At this point I would advise you to refrain from further public statements which could affect the current sales and my reputation. I reserve my rights to pursue legal action for the harm you are causing.

Yours sincerely

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