CityPress - - News - SETUMO STONE setumo.stone@city­

Just as she was about to step into Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s bunker – his un­der­ground haven at Nkandla – to in­spect it as part of her probe into the sprawl­ing homestead, then pub­lic pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela was abruptly halted, de­spite re­ceiv­ing ear­lier per­mis­sion to en­ter from min­is­ters in the state se­cu­rity clus­ter.

Madon­sela’s rec­ol­lec­tion of how peo­ple “fought” to stop her at the en­trance of the bunker comes from an au­dio record­ing – re­cently ob­tained by City Press – of the state cap­ture in­ter­view she con­ducted with Julius Malema, leader of the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF), in Septem­ber.

This was the same in­ter­view – re­ported on in last week’s City Press – in which Malema told Madon­sela, un­der oath, that ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe knew the Rus­sians had paid Zuma and the Gup­tas money in ad­vance to se­cure the nu­clear deal.

Madon­sela said she had an ear­lier agree­ment with the se­cu­rity clus­ter min­is­ters that she would be al­lowed to in­spect the bunker. One of the con­di­tions for the agree­ment had been that she would go into the bunker alone.

She said that on the pre­ar­ranged date, she and her team ar­rived in Nkandla and started their work, as agreed. They as­sumed the bunker would be the last site of in­spec­tion.

Madon­sela said things took an un­ex­pected turn just as she got to the en­trance of the bunker. “So, there was a deal that we would go to the bunker, but the staff would not be al­lowed to go down – but I would go down.

“We go to Nkandla [and] we look at ev­ery­thing be­cause we just as­sumed we would end at the bunker. When we were at the mouth of the bunker, sud­denly they fought tooth and nail,” she said.

In the record­ing she goes on to say that, in a later dis­cus­sion with an un­named for­mer “editor of a group of news­pa­pers”, she was alerted that the rea­son her in­spec­tion had been frus­trated was be­cause the bunker had money in it.

The editor at­trib­uted the in­for­ma­tion to a se­nior po­lit­i­cal leader, whose name was known to Madon­sela. How­ever, she did not re­veal the name. “Ac­cord­ing to that editor, there was money there. And the rea­son I am bring­ing it up is not re­ally to just bring that as a piece of juicy gos­sip,” she said.

“I have never fol­lowed [it up]. If you say they [Zuma and the Gup­tas] were paid, who was paid? Does any­body know how was the pay­ment done and to whom was it [paid]?” she asked Malema.

He replied that he did not have any de­tails, ex­cept for what Man­tashe had told him dur­ing a se­cret meet­ing be­tween Man­tashe, Malema and two of his EFF co­horts, held to ini­ti­ate talks on a pos­si­ble mu­nic­i­pal coali­tion be­tween their two par­ties.

Man­tashe had al­legedly lob­bied the EFF to in­clude the scrap­ping of the nu­clear deal as one of the pre­con­di­tions for work­ing with the ANC, claim­ing it was un­af­ford­able and would “col­lapse” the coun­try.

“Thank you, hon­ourable Malema,” said Madon­sela as she con­cluded her ques­tions.

“If you can find any in­for­ma­tion just from any­one that could help us to fol­low that money to find out if it was in­deed paid (sic). Per­haps I will still also fol­low up with that guy. He is not the editor of those bunch of pa­pers any more. But he had that in­for­ma­tion at the time.”

In her fi­nal State of Cap­ture re­port, re­leased ear­lier this month, Madon­sela makes no ref­er­ence to the nu­clear deal or Zuma’s bunker. Last week, Man­tashe re­jected Malema’s tes­ti­mony, but the EFF leader de­fended his ver­sion.

Madon­sela said this week that she had no knowl­edge of any record­ing dur­ing her in­ter­view with Malema “on a lap­top or cell­phone, and cer­tainly noth­ing on video”.

“If such was found, the au­then­tic­ity can­not be ver­i­fied. No de­ci­sion was made by me to re­lease such records, ex­cept for the meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Zuma, which is not about ev­i­dence but rather whether or not he was asked ques­tions or given a chance to present his ver­sion.”

She re­ferred ques­tions to her suc­ces­sor, Bu­sisiwe Mkhwe­bane. “Kindly ask the new pub­lic pro­tec­tor if she knows any­thing about what pur­ports to be a record of an in­ter­view ... in light of her pref­er­ence to an­swer all ques­tions about the state cap­ture in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” she said.

When we were at the mouth of the bunker, sud­denly they fought tooth and nail

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