/ 20 August 2018

Who’s who in round one of state capture inquiry

Mcebisi Jonas
Mcebisi Jonas, Themba Maseko, Vytjie Mentor (Gallo Images)

The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture began on Monday in Parktown, headed by former Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Zondo — a judge of 21 years — will chair the inquiry in its investigation into any and all allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector. The term of the commission has recently been extended to 2020.

READ MORE: Day one of state capture inquiry gets underway

The commission will be expected to make recommendations on 11 allegations that former public protector Thuli Madonsela noted in her 2016 report into state capture — including whether former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor were offered cabinet positions by the Gupta family. Both Mentor and Jonas are expected to testify at the first round of hearings.

Mcebisi Jonas

The former deputy minister of finance alleged that in October 2015, the Gupta family offered him a promotion and a bribe of R600-million — two months before then-finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was removed from office.

According to Jonas, he declined the offers. Ajay Gupta, the family’s patriarch, has denied the claim that he offered Jonas the promotion and the money.

Jonas’s tenure in the treasury ended in 2017 when he was sacked by then president Jacob Zuma.

Vytjie Mentor

The former ANC MP alleged she had been offered a cabinet post, the position of minister of public enterprises, by the Gupta family.

At the time she was allegedly offered the position, Barbara Hogan was minister of public enterprises.

According to the public protector’s state capture report, the offer was in exchange for cancelling the South African Airways route to India. The decision was allegedly to see India-based Jet Airways and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways benefit.

The Sunday Independent reported in March 2018 that when SAA stopped flying to Mumbai, which had a seat-load factor of 82% to 88% in 2015, Jet Airways took over the route, flying passengers to Abu Dhabi from where passengers were flown via Etihad back to South Africa.

Mentor also claimed that Zuma had been present when the offer was made, albeit in another room of the Gupta’s Saxonwold compound.

Mentor was appointed as chairperson of the public enterprise committee in May 2009 after she was replaced as chairperson of the ANC caucus. However, she was fired from the position following an investigation regarding a payment of R155 000 Transnet made for Mentor to accompany Zuma on a state trip to China.

Themba Maseko

The former head of Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS), Themba Maseko is the only person who has implicated Zuma directly. Maseko alleges he received a phone call from Zuma in 2010, asking him to aid the Gupta brothers with placing government advertisements in Gupta-linked New Age newspaper.

On Maseko’s evidence, Zuma has been invited to appear before the commission to respond to the allegations against him.

Although neither Willie Mathebula, a veteran treasury staffer, or Phumla Williams, the deputy director-general of the government communications, are mentioned in the state capture report, they are expected to speak in the first round of hearings.

Mathebula was appointed as acting chief procurement officer at the National Treasury by then Malusi Gigaba in September 2017. This position is arguably one of the most important gatekeepers at the Treasury; while Williams was in charge of all government communications in the period of following Nelson Mandela’s death in 2013. According to News 24, she has deep knowledge of the inner workings of government.

Zuma will also be requested to respond to allegations in person at the commission on whether he lobbied for the Guptas to receive government business.

This would be the first time that Zuma would response under oath to questions regarding his role in state capture. In previous calls for comment, the former president has denied any role in enriching the Gupta family.