Former South Africa President Jacob Zuma has confessed that he had floated the idea that led to the establishment of controversial Indian-origin Gupta family's media empire, which has eventually collapsed, as he had felt the need of creating an "alternative voice" in the media industry.
Appearing before the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector here on Monday, Zuma said that he had advised the Guptas to establish the newspaper the New Age and news channel ANN7, as he felt there was a need for an "alternative voice" in the media industry, which he also believed was too negative at the same time, The Irish Times reported.
Zuma is scheduled to continue his testimony for the rest of this week, which has been probing allegations that the former President allowed cronies to plunder state resources and influence senior government appointments during his nine years in office.
The former President confirmed to the Commission that he knew the Gupta brothers, whom he said he was introduced to when he served the country as a Deputy President in the early 2000s.
However, he insisted there was nothing untoward about their relationship and that they were just "friends".
The former President went on to say that he has been the victim of a "character assassination" campaign by enemies seeking his removal from power.
Without naming the agencies involved, Zuma said he had received a report in 1990 that indicated intelligence bureaus from two "big" foreign countries and one from South Africa had met to hatch conspiracies designed to end his political career.
"There has been a drive to remove me from the scene, a wish that I should disappear," he told the inquiry at the beginning of his testimony, "and it arises perhaps out of my work in the ANC (African National Congress) and also because of who I am."
The commission, led by Judge Raymond Zondo, said last month that Zuma was invited to appear "to enable him to give his side of the story". It is investigating a web of deals involving government officials, the wealthy Gupta family, and state-owned companies.
Speaking at the start of Monday's hearing, Zondo thanked Zuma for attending, and said, "The commission is not mandated to prove any case against anybody but is mandated to investigate and inquire into certain allegations."
Zuma, 77, who served as the President from 2009 to 2018, resigned last year following an internal battle within the ANC and was succeeded by incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Meanwhile, the Gupta brothers -- Ajay, Atul, and Rajesh -- who are close business friends of Zuma, have denied all allegations of corruption and left the country shortly after the former President's resignation. They are now thought to be living in Dubai.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)