Zuma wife quizzed about poi­son plot

In­ves­ti­ga­tors are mon­i­tor­ing sus­pected co-con­spir­a­tors and gath­er­ing ev­i­dence to link them to the plot

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The net is clos­ing in on First Lady Nom­pumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, who has al­legedly ad­mit­ted to know­ing about a plot to poi­son the pres­i­dent.

City Press has learnt from four well-placed sources – both in law en­force­ment and in fam­ily cir­cles – that Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s es­tranged wife, known as MaN­tuli, will “soon” be charged with con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der.

The author­i­ties are still on the trail of her al­leged ac­com­plices, which City Press has learnt in­cludes a flam­boy­ant KwaZulu-Natal busi­ness­man. Three of the four sources con­firmed that other lo­cal and for­eign in­di­vid­u­als were also on in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ radar.

The al­leged plot came to light in Fe­bru­ary, when the Sun­day Times re­ported that MaN­tuli had been cast out of the pres­i­den­tial home in Nkandla be­cause Zuma had be­come sus­pi­cious of her in­volve­ment in a plot to poi­son him.

At the time, nei­ther the pres­i­dency nor the po­lice would con­firm or deny the plot al­le­ga­tions. Both the gov­ern­ment and Zuma have been keen to keep the mat­ter out of the news be­cause it thrusts his pri­vate life into the public spotlight. How­ever, this may be­come in­evitable be­cause the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been go­ing full tilt be­hind the scenes.

A docket is now be­lieved to be with the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA) and is be­ing dealt with by se­nior pros­e­cu­tors. Law en­force­ment sources told City Press that MaN­tuli had made a state­ment to in­ves­ti­ga­tors and her af­fi­davit con­tained “some very in­ter­est­ing names”. “This thing [plot] was big,” said a source fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Another well-placed law en­force­ment source said: “It’s true. She is go­ing to be charged with con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der. She hasn’t been charged be­cause we haven’t been able to nab the man [or] peo­ple who are be­hind the plot,” the source said.

The de­ci­sion to charge MaN­tuli is likely to be one of the first hot pota­toes to land in newly ap­pointed Na­tional Di­rec­tor of Public Pros­e­cu­tions Shaun Abra­hams’ lap.

Although two in­de­pen­dent sources close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion told City Press that NPA top brass were fully aware of the mat­ter, spokesper­son Lu­vuyo Mfaku de­nied this.

“Re­gret­tably, we can­not com­ment. The mat­ter has not been brought to our at­ten­tion. [Pro­vin­cial pros­e­cu­tions di­rec­tor] Ad­vo­cate [Moipone] Noko is not giv­ing any pros­e­cu­to­rial guid­ance to po­lice on the mat­ter,” said Mfaku.

City Press now un­der­stands from sources fa­mil­iar with the case that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is now un­der way to find out whether NPA staff leaked in­for­ma­tion in­volv­ing the MaN­tuli in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

A source close to the Zuma fam­ily said sus­pi­cions about a pos­si­ble poi­son plot arose when Zuma be­came very ill in June last year.

“At some point, we no­ticed that ubaba was very sick and it had noth­ing to do with the rou­tine check­ups. He was re­ally sick,” said a law en­force­ment in­sider.

When it be­came clear that he had been poi­soned, sus­pi­cion fell on his wives. Most fin­gers pointed in the di­rec­tion of MaN­tuli, whose re­la­tion­ship with the pres­i­dent had been go­ing through a rocky patch.

MaN­tuli’s mar­riage was rocked by in­fi­delity af­ter she al­legedly cheated on Zuma with her body­guard, Phinda Thomo. De­tails of the al­leged af­fair came to light when a let­ter, sup­pos­edly writ­ten by con­cerned fam­ily mem­bers, was sent to an isiZulu news­pa­per. The fam­ily came to MaN­tuli’s de­fence, deny­ing wrong­do­ing on her be­half.

The Sun­day Times re­ported a se­nior in­tel­li­gence source say­ing the poi­son­ing was dis­cov­ered when Zuma trav­elled to the US in Au­gust last year for the US-Africa Lead­ers’ Sum­mit. The news­pa­per re­ported that doc­tors there dis­cov­ered what was wrong with him and the di­ag­no­sis was sub­se­quently con­firmed by Rus­sian doc­tors.

City Press has learnt that dur­ing the sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tion, MaN­tuli al­legedly crum­bled and con­fessed to hav­ing knowl­edge of the plot.

“She, in not so many words, ad­mit­ted that she was be­hind the plot and she was kicked out of Nkandla be­cause she was a threat,” said a fam­ily as­so­ciate.

“She was told to take all her be­long­ings and leave Nkandla. She is only al­lowed there if she is there to bring the chil­dren.” MaN­tuli later re­vealed the de­tails of the plot to the author­i­ties. Sources close to the Zuma fam­ily said they be­lieved that although the mo­tive for the plot was still un­known, MaN­tuli was drawn into it while on a busi­ness trip to the US last year. While there, she was wooed by the plot­ters, who al­legedly of­fered her money to fa­cil­i­tate Zuma’s mur­der.

“They wooed her be­cause she had di­rect ac­cess to the pres­i­dent. Money ex­changed hands, a lot of it ... The deal was to kill the pres­i­dent,” said a law en­force­ment in­sider.

The fam­ily be­came more sus­pi­cious af­ter they claim she was able to buy a house in the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg area, and al­legedly treated her loyal friends to a three-week stay in a five-star Dur­ban ho­tel. “The money was driv­ing her crazy,” said a law en­force­ment source.

While MaN­tuli has been stripped of her priv­i­leges, she still has her VIP se­cu­rity de­tail “be­cause it is to mon­i­tor her move­ments ... so we will al­ways know where she is”, said a fam­ily in­sider.

Zuma is also keep­ing her within the mar­i­tal fold be­cause “she is fine where she is, where we can mon­i­tor her”.

MaN­tuli has since kept a very low pro­file, said the fam­ily in­sid­ers. Last week she was seen at the fu­neral of prom­i­nent ANC leader Thu­lani Mashaba – it was the first time she had been spot­ted at a public event since her ex­ile from the fam­ily.

At the fu­neral, she was ush­ered into a seat to­wards the back of the hall, next to Deputy Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Bheki Cele and his wife, Them­beka – well away from Zuma and his first wife, Siza­kele Khu­malo-Zuma, and his fourth wife, Bongi Ngema-Zuma.

She has also not been seen at Zuma’s side dur­ing his of­fi­cial trips abroad. Dur­ing a trip to Rus­sia last month for the Brics sum­mit, Tobeka Madiba Zuma ac­com­pa­nied him. On trips to Mozam­bique in May, to China in De­cem­ber and to Sene­gal in Oc­to­ber, MaKhu­malo was by his side. MaNgema ac­com­pa­nied him on a trip to the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo in Oc­to­ber.

MaN­tuli was also not seen at her hus­band’s state of the na­tion ad­dress in Par­lia­ment in Fe­bru­ary, an event all his wives tra­di­tion­ally at­tend.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors from the po­lice and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are now mon­i­tor­ing her sus­pected co-con­spir­a­tors and gath­er­ing ev­i­dence to link them di­rectly to the plot.

“We still do not know why they wanted to kill the pres­i­dent and what they stood to gain. No one re­ally knows. Un­til we can get to the mas­ter­minds, it is still a mys­tery and a con­fus­ing sit­u­a­tion,” said a source close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

MaN­tuli could not be reached for com­ment this week. Po­lice spokesper­son Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Solomon Mak­gale de­clined to com­ment on the case, re­fer­ring all ques­tions to the pres­i­dency.

Pres­i­dency spokesper­son Bongani Ma­jola also de­clined to com­ment, say­ing he was un­able to speak on a per­sonal fam­ily mat­ter.

PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES / SUN­DAY TIMES / SIMPHIWE NKWALI

EX­ILED FROM HOME Nom­pumelelo Ntuli dur­ing her tra­di­tional wed­ding to

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in 2008 in Nkandla

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