South African former president Jacob Zuma is due on Monday to make a much-anticipated appearance before an inquiry into alleged corruption after previous witnesses gave damning evidence against him.
Zuma is accused of overseeing mass looting of state funds during his nine-year reign before he was ousted in 2018 by the ruling ANC party and replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma, 77, has denied all wrongdoing, and his lawyers have described the inquiry as an attempt to “ambush and humiliate” him.
The former president, who is not legally required to appear, agreed to attend for up to five days this week, though it is unclear if he will cooperate with any cross-examination.
His request to see the questions in advance was denied by the inquiry commission, which is probing the corruption scandal known as “state capture”.
“In all honesty, the commission asked me to come to testify and put forward any information that I might have,” Zuma said on Friday, ahead of the televised hearings.
“We will see how things pan out, but I am going there.”
The inquiry commission said last month that Zuma was invited to appear “to enable him to give his side of the story”.
Led by judge Raymond Zondo, the probe is investigating a web of deals involving government officials, the wealthy Gupta family and state-owned companies.
Zuma’s alleged bribes and death threats
According to one witness at the commission, Zuma allegedly accepted a monthly $2,200 bribe delivered in luxury bags from a security firm that was trying to evade police investigation.
The money was in theory for his charity foundation.
Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, who was sacked by Zuma in 2015, testified that Zuma pushed policies on nuclear power and aviation that were designed to benefit the Gupta family.
The Gupta brothers are accused of fraudulently profiting from vast government contracts including energy and transport deals under Zuma.
The Guptas owned a uranium mine, which would have seen profits soar from the nuclear deal, as well as a portfolio of mining, technology and media companies.
They allegedly held such sway over Zuma that they were able to select some of his cabinet ministers.
Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas told the inquiry that the Guptas offered him the finance minister’s job and even threatened to kill him after he refused to accept a $40 million bribe.
The Financial Mail weekly said on Thursday that Zuma’s lawyer Daniel Mantsha had stopped communicating with the inquiry’s officials ahead of Zuma’s testimony.
Mantsha has previously told the commission that Zuma was keen to appear in front of a “truly independent” forum to “expose lies” about him.
Zuma was forced to set up the commission in January 2018, shortly before he left office, after failing in a legal battle to overturn the instructions of the country’s ethics ombudsman.
It has been holding hearings in Johannesburg since last year.
Zuma has also been charged with 16 counts of graft linked to an arms deal from before he became president.
The Indian-born Gupta brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – have left South Africa and are now based in Dubai.
Togo announces presidential election for February next year
Gnassingbe has been in power for nearly 15 years since succeeding his father Eyadema Gnassingbe
Togo will hold elections in February next year, when incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe is expected to seek a fourth term in office.
A government decree published late Thursday after a cabinet meeting said the presidential election will be held on February 22 with a second-round organised if no candidate gets a clear majority.
Gnassingbe has been in power for nearly 15 years since succeeding his father Eyadema Gnassingbe, who led the country with an iron fist for 38 years.
The decree said for the first time Togo citizens living abroad will be able to cast their votes at embassies in the countries where they are living.
Election campaigning will start on February 6 and end February 20.
Opposition parties and civil society leaders, including Togo’s bishops, last month called for the election to be suspended to allow for a reorganisation of the constitutional court, the electoral register and the national electoral commission.
In early May, the Togolese deputies voted a constitutional amendment allowing Gnassingbe to run again in 2020 and 2025, but also to benefit from immunity for life “for acts done during presidential terms”.
Senator Orji Uzor Kalu bags 12 years imprisonment
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday sentenced Senator Orji Uzor Kalu to 12 years in prison for fraud.
Orji Kalu, a serving senator representing Abia North and former governor of Abia State, was handed a 12-year jail sentence by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court Lagos for N7.65 billion fraud.
Kalu was tried alongside Slok Nigeria Limited, a company he chairs and Mr Udeh Udeogu who was Director of Finance and Accounts of the state house at the time Kalu was governor of Abia State.
The convicts were accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of conspiring to divert and diverting over N7billion state fund in an amended 39-count charge.
The EFCC alleged in one of the counts that Senator Kalu did procure a company solely owned by him and members of his family – Slok Nigeria Limited – to retain in its account, an aggregate sum of N7,197,871,208.7 on his behalf.
The prosecution had argued that the N7.1 billion formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia State Government and which was laundered into several bank drafts before they were paid into Slok Nigeria’s account.
Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs SAN, further argued that such action was in violation of Section 17(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, and the defendant was liable to be punished under Section 16 of the same Act.
Kalu and the other defendants were also accused of receiving the sum of N460 million allegedly pilfered from the Abia State Government treasury between July and December 2002.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
While the matter lasted in court, the prosecution called a total of 19 witnesses and the defendants testified on their own behalf.
Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed to avoid questions at Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo
Events kick off with meetings at the Nobel Institute and a large press conference with the Peace Prize winner
The Norwegian Nobel Committee is grappling with challenges just days before the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize arrives in Oslo.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has made it clear he won’t attend any event where he could publicly be asked questions, either by the press or even children, and the committee finds that “highly problematic.”
Olav Njølstad, Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute and secretary for the committee that annually awards the Peace Prize, told Norwegian Broadcasting that the Nobel Institute and the Nobel Committee wishes Abiy Ahmed had said ‘yes’ to meeting Norwegian and international press.
Ahmed’s decision to avoid any events in which he’d need to answer questions has thus resulted in a highly amputated program for the “Nobel Peace Prize Days” that should begin in Oslo on Monday, December 9.
Events traditionally kick off with meetings at the Nobel Institute with committee members and a large press conference with the Peace Prize winner that’s broadcast live.
For the first time in many years, the Nobel press conference has been cancelled, as have traditional in-depth interviews usually conducted by NRK, the BBC and Al Jazeera.
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