Former president Jacob Zuma attended a mysterious meeting in Doha with the Emir of Qatar – Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani – this week, according to a report by the Sunday Times.
The paper noted that neither the presidency, the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) nor the South African embassy in Doha were informed about it – as protocol dictates.
It added that president Ramaphosa and international relations minister Lindiwe Sisulu only learnt of the trip when South Africa’s ambassador to Qatar, Faizel Moosa, wrote to Sisulu and her advisers to raise his concerns about the trip and how unusual it was.
A number of officials from both the presidency and Dirco – all speaking on condition of anonymity – told the Sunday Times that Doha-based businessman Philippe Solomons, and Gayton McKenzie, a known supporter of Zuma, were involved in organising the trip and setting up the meeting with the Emir.
McKenzie denied playing any part in setting up a meeting or making travel arrangements for Zuma but confirmed the organisers of the trip asked if he could fly Zuma to Doha. He would not say who had asked.
Speaking to the Sunday Times on Friday (21 September), Ramaphosa confirmed that Zuma had been in Qatar but his government had not been formally informed.
When asked whether he was concerned about the activities of the former president, Ramaphosa said he was more concerned about the unity of the ANC — an indication that he viewed the trip as part of a plot against his government by some within the ruling party.
“I’ve, like you, heard that he has been to Qatar, but I don’t know anything about that visit. I don’t know anything,” said Ramaphosa.
“That was one of the key tasks that I was given (unity). What we are seeking to do is to get everyone in the kraal so that we can pull in the same direction.
Reasons proposed for the trip including everything from a request by Zuma to the emir to help cover his legal fees, discussions should he want permanent residency in the Gulf state, as well as possible contact with the Gupta family.
Earlier this month, Zuma and a number of senior ANC officials were spotted during two clandestine meetings held in KZN.
The group reportedly plan to challenge the outcome of last year’s ANC national conference, which elected Ramaphosa as party president.
You can read the full story in today’s Sunday Times.