South African Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu promised to probe media claims about Zuma's alleged transfer of some $23 million in cash to the landlocked microstate of Eswatini, with the cash supposedly given to him by Gaddafi before his death, but admitted that the report sounds "very much like a ghost story…circulating for many, many years." South African newspaper Sunday Times claimed that Libyan authorities have already asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to recover the money. The report was the second time Libyan authorities claimed that Gaddafi hid away cash in South Africa. In 2013, the southern African country agreed to repatriate close to $1 billion to the self-proclaimed Libyan authorities.
Sputnik: Is it true that in 2013, Libyan funds equivalent to $1 billion US were transferred back to Libya from South Africa?
Dirk Kotze: We still have to get confirmation of this, but the reports that we have available at the moment suggest that at the time of the Arab Spring in Libya, [Muammar] Gaddafi asked President Zuma to keep his money in South Africa, because he thought that it might become necessary if he was arrested, for example, and taken to the International Criminal Court or another type of tribunal, and he would need money for that.
Sputnik: If that is the case, why do you think Gaddafi or his associates would choose South Africa as the place to transfer the funds to in the first place? What links were there between Libya and South Africa, or between Gaddafi and Zuma?
Dirk Kotze: Gaddafi had traditionally strong links with some of the political parties and movements in South Africa, not so much the ANC, the current government, but other liberation movements – the PAC – the Pan-African Congress. At the same time, after 1994 [and the end of Apartheid], President Mandela sought to develop close relationships with Libya…
President Zuma also became very closely associated with Libya, and there were some reports that he won the election for the ANC against former President Mbeki, that he was actually funded by Gaddafi and also by Angola. That created the impression that there were also personal links between President Zuma and Gaddafi, and I think that is possibly the basis on which this latest information should be assessed.
Dirk Kotze: According to the reports that we've seen, [Zuma] started to transfer this money to Swaziland exactly for this reason – that it should not complicate his own position. This is not necessarily illegal in terms of South African law. The problem is about how this money arrived in South Africa, and whether it went through the official procedures of foreign currency coming into South Africa, with the South African Reserve Bank being very much involved in those processes. So we don't know if that [procedure] has been followed, and that can create some complications for President Zuma also…
Sputnik: Do you think this is going to have an impact on the charges that Zuma is facing?
Dirk Kotze: No, it won't. The charges that he's faced with are charges about events that happened in the very early 1990s when he wasn't even the president of South Africa…It's about incidents that happened more than 20 years ago.
Listen to Dr Kotze's full interview with Sputnik here:
Dr Dirk Kotze is a professor of political science at the University of South Africa. The views expressed by Dr Kotze do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.