JOHANNESBURG – Former South African president Jacob Zuma told a corruption inquiry on Monday that there was a conspiracy against him and that his enemies had subjected him to a “character assassination”.

Zuma said those who conspired against him wanted him out of power during his final time as South Africa’s Head of State.

 “This commission, from my understanding, was really created to have me coming here, and perhaps to find things on me,” Zuma said in his opening remarks at the inquiry, looking relaxed and wearing a dark suit.

“There has been a drive to remove me from the scene, a wish that I should disappear.”

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Zuma, ousted by the governing African National Congress (ANC) in February 2018, is accused of allowing cronies to plunder state resources and influence senior government appointments during his nine years in power.

He has consistently denied wrongdoing, saying the allegations against him are politically motivated.

His lawyer said in a letter to the inquiry last month that Zuma believed it was prejudiced against him.

It is a rare example of an African leader being brought to book soon after losing power.