/ 26 August 2018

#StateCaptureInquiry: What Vytjie saw

Mentor first revealed the alleged Gupta bribe in a Facebook post in March 2016.
Mentor first revealed the alleged Gupta bribe in a Facebook post in March 2016. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

The second week of the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture will begin with testimony from former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor.

On Monday, the state capture inquiry — headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — is expected to hear details about how in 2010 the politically connected Gupta family offered Mentor the position of public enterprises minister in exchange for cancelling the South African Airways (SAA) route to India.

The cancellation of this route was allegedly set to benefit India-based Jet Airways and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways.

Mentor was appointed chairperson of the public enterprise committee in May 2009 after she was replaced as chairperson of the ANC caucus.

She was subsequently fired from the position following an investigation into the payment of R155 000 by state rail agency Transnet for Mentor to accompany Zuma on a state trip to China.

Mentor first revealed the alleged Gupta bribe in a Facebook post in March 2016.

She wrote: “But they had previously asked me to become Minister of Public Enterprises when Barbara Hogan got the chop, provided that I would drop the SAA flight-route to India and give to them. I refused and so I was never made a Minister. The President was in another room when they offered me this in Saxonworld. [sic]”

Her post was in response to another Facebook post by Democratic Alliance member and former Congress of the People spokesperson, Johann Abrie, who had published a cartoon of the presidential seal bearing the face of one of the Gupta brothers.

At the time she was allegedly offered the position, Barbara Hogan was minister of public enterprises. Hogan was sacked that year. The Guptas have denied Mentor’s claims.

Mentor further alleges former president Jacob Zuma was at the Gupta compound when the alleged bribe attempt was made, though at the time Zuma denied having any recollection of Mentor or the events which she alleges occurred.

Addressing the Cape Town Press Club as a member of the SA First Forum in September 2016, Mentor said of Zuma: “It might be that he appears clever. I think he is actually sly. He is very efficiently sly. It is exactly for that reason that the apparatus of the governing party is largely of patronage.”

Mentor was one of the people interviewed by former public protector Thuli Madonsela in her investigation into state capture.

In the report Madonsela said Mentor told her that Zuma did not appear angry that she had declined the offer. “He apparently said to her in Zulu, something like, ‘It’s okay Ntombazane [girl]… take care of yourself’,” the report says.

Last year, Mentor said Zuma had made inappropriate sexual advances towards her while he was deputy president.

READ MORE: ‘Zuma tried his luck with me, twice’ – Mentor alleges sexual harassment

She said she rejected him twice, once while she was a younger ANC member in the early 1990s, and when she was chairperson of the ANC caucus in the mid-2000s.“Zuma tried his luck with me on two occasions. I dealt with him and continued with my work. But he continued to prey on women,” she told the Cape Town Press Club.

Mentor was in attendance at the inquiry on Friday where former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas testified that in October 2015, Ajay Gupta had offered him a bribe of R600-million and the position of finance minister, two months before Nhlanhla Nene was removed from the position.

READ MORE: ‘Looting R6bn from state is not enough’ — Ajay Gupta

In a shocking revelation, Jonas also testified that the Gupta patriarch had threatened to kill him when he denied the offer.

READ MORE: #StateCaptureInquiry: ‘Hawks tried to kill Gupta case’— Jonas

On Friday, Mentor told the SABC said that it is difficult for her to say that she is looking forward to testifying on Monday “because it is a tall order”.

She said her testimony would happen in two phases and that on Monday she will be talking about the Gupta’s alleged role in the hiring and firing of members of Zuma’s Cabinet.

She said she would testify again sometime in early 2019 on irregular procurements within state-owned entities.

She said: “I don’t take my appearing before the commission lightly. It is nothing for one to beat their chests about or to pat themselves on the shoulder.”