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Zuma claims 3 attempts to poison him

PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA
PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA
By MOIPONE MALEFANE and NATASHA MARRIAN

President Jacob Zuma apparently told ANC leaders he has been poisoned three times by people who wanted to get rid of him.

He made the startling claim during his closing remarks at the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting on Monday evening after the marathon three-day meeting failed to agree on whether or not he should be fired.

Zuma said his poisoning was intended to block him from continuing to lead the ANC as well as the country.

According to several NEC sources yesterday, it was the first time Zuma had spoken out about being poisoned.

He did not reveal those behind the said poisoning. The Hawks are currently investigating a poisoning allegation against his wife Nompumelelo Ntuli- Zuma, popularly known as maNtuli, after Zuma fell ill two years ago.

At the time the Sunday Times reported that maNtuli had been ordered out of Nkandla by State Security Minister David Mahlobo after suspicion fell on her. Zuma has four wives.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the poison claim was a complete distortion of what the president said at the meeting, but would not go into detail.

Sowetan, the Daily Dispatch’s sister newspaper, spoke to at least four NEC members who said Zuma told them after the debate that foreign countries were after his head, and those who called for him to step down were being used by outside governments.

Zuma has made similar claims on public platforms recently.

The sources said Zuma did not mention who had poisoned him. Zuma is also said to have said that the criminal charges against him were part of the campaign against him. He was referring to the 783 counts of fraud and corruption hanging over his head amid an opposition campaign to have them re-instated. The charges were controversially dropped by the National Prosecuting Authority in 2009. He apparently asked what happened to those charges and what it was that he did wrong.

Zuma was defiant and adamant he was a good leader as he addressed the NEC meeting, in which ministers from his cabinet called for his removal as State President. An attempt to decide the matter by secret ballot was rejected.

Addressing a press conference yesterday, deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte confirmed yesterday that when the Zuma recall issue was discussed, an NEC member did suggest a vote.

“It did arise and we immediately explained that in the ANC we don’t vote,” she said, adding that in ANC tradition, everyone was instead allowed to speak until consensus was reached.

Addressing the media, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the subject of removal of the president was now closed as the NEC did not support the step-down. He said the three days of talks were a “robust, difficult and candid” discussion on Zuma’s leadership.

The NEC acknowledged there was a negative perception towards the President and this is why they had allowed the debate to proceed.

A long discussion was held on state capture and Zuma’s relationship with the Gupta family came into sharp focus.

According to sources sympathetic to the President, he explained that the family’s relationship was not with him but with his son, Duduzane Zuma.

Duarte confirmed that Zuma did not participate in the discussions but did make closing remarks, without getting into details of what the President said.

“Of course the President closes every single NEC meeting. He makes closing remarks. So he did say a number of things to us – in particular that he believed that this discussion, although it may have looked to many people like a very robust discussion, some people would describe it differently but it was actually a very good discussion because it enable us to look at a number of issues that may have been discussed in corridors, put on the table, dealt with, and we are now able to move forward and move on,” said Duarte.

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