/ 17 March 2016

More courted cadres to come clean

Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas
Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas says the Hawks tried to kill the investigation into claims the Gupta family tried to bribe him. (Davis Harrison/M&G)

As if this week wasn’t explosive enough for South Africans, next week could see a host of public officials admitting to overtures by the infamous Gupta family if they are roused by a weekend ANC meeting.

That’s according to former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, who this week claimed the Gupta family offered her a ministerial position but limited herself mostly to messages on Facebook, where she said she had proof that Zuma was “in that Gupta house” when she rejected the offer.

On Thursday, Mentor told the Mail & Guardian that she had proof for all her claims – but would reveal it “in time”. She said she had deliberately “insulated” herself from others who might wish to come out with similar revelations because she didn’t want it to seem as if she was putting pressure on them.

“I’m appealing to their consciences,” she said. Mentor said the country’s wellbeing was at stake and that, by Sunday, following the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting, “many people would have stood up”.

She said the minds of ANC cadres worked as follows: “They will be looking at that NEC; the general cadre that is holding a position, they will be looking to see where the wind is blowing, and if it is blowing strong enough … I grew up with them, I know them.”

Others who ‘turned the Guptas down’
In the past five years, high-ranking officials are alleged to have been approached by the Gupta family with various offers or demands and to have turned them down – several times.

The allegations have usually been made by third parties who said that those approached had confided in them, or have been made by well-placed sources.

In some cases, such as that of Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, the Gupta family has flatly denied that any such meetings ever took place. In others the family said meetings had been innocuous and the details distorted. The family has also threatened various lawsuits concerning the allegations.

These are the people who could claim the moral high ground if they were to come out swinging at the Gupta family:

  • Vuyisile Kona, who chaired the SAA board at the time, allegedly met the family in October 2012 and was offered up to R500 000 for his co-operation. The Gupta family filed papers demanding damages of R500-million each from the Sunday Times and the Mail & Guardian for publishing these allegations in 2013. On Thursday Kona declined to talk about those events, but not for a lack of bitterness. “Because of this thing I lost everything and my life is terrible,” he said. “I have decided to stay away from all of that.”
  • Themba Maseko, then head of the Government Communication and Information System, is said to have met Ajay Gupta in December 2010, where Gupta demanded that government advertising be directed to the family’s New Age newspaper. Maseko apparently demurred, and resigned not long after this. On Thursday Maseko said he was not yet ready to talk about the alleged meeting, but was “thinking about” doing so.
  • The Gupta family allegedly put pressure on then transport minister Ben Martins to fire officials who failed to secure them a part of major tenders, particularly for massive acquisitions of rail rolling stock. Martins was in caucus with the ANC in Parliament on Thursday, but responded by SMS to say: “While a deputy minister and minister, I did not allow myself to be influenced by anyone who did not have the legal and legitimate authority to do so.”
  • In 2013, several high-ranking government officials said members of the Gupta family had asked to be granted diplomatic passports. The request, the officials said, had been denied. “We would certainly respond to any type of investigation and make a statement if we were required to tell our side of the story in any formal way,” said international relations and co-operation spokesperson Clayson Monyela on Thursday, without commenting on whether there is a story to tell.

The Gupta family, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on the historical allegations.

“These allegations are nothing more than political gossip and innuendo. We will not dignify them with a response. Nor will we provide a running commentary on what is a politically motivated campaign against us,” the spokesperson said.