Former intelligence head Mo Shaik told the judicial commission of inquiry into State capture on Tuesday that former president Jacob Zuma was being loyal to his friendship with the Gupta family when he allegedly dismissed red flags relating to national security.
"For someone who has known the president for a long time, I will not say he is stubborn – but when he had made [up] his mind, it is often difficult to shift that mindset. I think he was being very loyal to the friendship he had with the Gupta family.
"Even though that loyalty was causing him embarrassment in his public office, I think he was in a state of mind that there is nothing wrong here and we should accept that. The facts did not matter at that point," Shaik said.
The former intelligence head was referring to the period when he sought relief from the president after then-minister of intelligence Siyabonga Cwele allegedly dismissed his bid to investigate the controversial family.
Shaik raised red flags regarding national security after he learnt, through media reports, that one of the Gupta brothers allegedly told Fikile Mbalula (now Minister of Transport) that he would be appointed as a Cabinet minister.
According to the former intelligence head, Zuma allegedly responded by elaborately explaining his relationship with the family and how they helped his son, Duduzane.
It was Shaik's understanding from the meeting with Zuma that "he would not like the investigation to continue" and that the then-president "had lost confidence in him".
"I do think the president in his capacity as a president understood what we are saying and the consequences of what we are saying that's why he went into an elaborate explanation.
"My experience in intelligence is that if someone goes into an elaboration – it is to clarify it," Shaik added.
Failed to separate personal relationships
Shaik told the commission that in his opinion, the former president did not take a "justifiable approach" as he failed to separate personal relationships from his responsibility as head of state.
"He was not applying his mind to the national security issue. Information was being peddled regarding his office and it must be investigated. I got a sense that he could not make that separation," Shaik said.
The former intelligence head added that while the president's defence of the Gupta family was a mystery, he understood the mindset Zuma was in, considering his history of friends facing the might of the law.
"Investigations into his friends, one of them being Schabir Schaik, led to successful prosecution, therefore I can understand his state of mind when he hears his friends are being investigated. I can see why he would think: 'Is that another way of trying to prosecute me?'" he testified.
The inquiry continues.