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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

Mbeki on Zuma: ‘Either Zondo report is wrong, or we’re dealing with entirely wrong person’

The former president has called on South Africans to scrutinise the parties they will vote for on 29 May.

Former president Thabo Mbeki has called on South Africans to scrutinise the kind of people they’re voting for on 29 May, to understand the kind of South Africa they will be living in after the elections.

Mbeki was speaking at the University of South Africa on Wednesday, where he criticised the newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe party, backed by former president Jacob Zuma.

Citing the Nugent and Zondo commissions, Mbeki said Zuma was the same person who was alleged to have played a major role in the collapse of the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

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The Nugent commission, chaired by retired judge Robert Nugent, and set up to investigate tax administration and governance at Sars, found that there were people who intentionally sought to destroy the institution.

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, in the commission’s report, found that Zuma and his accomplices had allegedly captured Sars.

Reads the Zondo commission’s report: “It is a notable feature of the Sars evidence, in contrast to the rest of the evidence which the commission heard, that this is one of the few instances where President Zuma was himself directly and personally involved in the activities and plans to take over a government entity, namely, Sars.”

Zuma has dismissed the state capture report findings, and said he would take the report on review.

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Mbeki said: “I think this is the distinction that we need to make, even in the context of voting on 29 May. I think we need to understand that context in order to understand who we are voting for. Who are these people?”

“In this case of Sars, there was no looting. The Nugent Commission says there were people who took a decision to destroy the institution – a remarkable statement in my view – because Sars is responsible for 95% to 98% of state revenues. You destroy Sars, you destroy the democratic state, and yet there were people who took a decision to do exactly that.

“So the commission’s report gives in great detail what exactly happened to destroy this institution.

“Now, some of us, after reading the Nugent Commission report, one of the things that stood out was the absence of looting. Here is a state agency that collects billions of rand and you would think one of its challenges would be theft, but the intention was not to steal but to destroy the institution.

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“It tells us something; how do we explain that there would be people who would deliberately set out to seek an outcome of that kind? These are, obviously, people who are hostile to the very existence of that democratic state. They don’t want it to succeed, so they intervened. ‘If we take away the revenues, it won’t be possible for the state to succeed’.

“The Zondo Commission continued and looked again at the Sars issue, they looked at the Nugent Commission on Sars, in fact continued from where Nugent left off, and said we agree with what that commission said, but we’re going to look at the same question again.

“Among the conclusions, on the Sars matter, says: ‘One of the people who played a leading role in the efforts to destroy Sars was the president of the Republic of South Africa’. That’s a strange conclusion. Fortunately, I was not president at the time.

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“The Zondo commission said: In terms of all the evidence that we received, one of the things that stands out is that the president of the republic, made certain that he was one of the leading people in terms of the Sars processes.

“And, of course, we know who the president was. And it says so in black and white that Jacob Zuma was part of the leadership in the process to destroy Sars. That’s not my opinion, I’m, telling you what the Zondo commission says.

“That’s a bit of a conundrum, that you would have the president of the Republic of South Africa participating in a process to destroy the institution that gives it the means to govern. That’s a kind of contradiction that then raises a question. Who indeed is this president?

“Either the Zondo commission is entirely wrong, or we’re dealing with somebody who is entirely wrong.”

Mbeki said what the two commission reports highlighted was that there were people who did not like South Africa’s democracy and, therefore, deliberately set out to destroy it.

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“It’s not everybody who celebrated in 1994. To some of our fellow citizens, 1994 represented a defeat, and they did not accept that it was going to be a defeat, and so, it was a temporary defeat for them, and they knew that in time, ‘We will win’,” he said.