/ 28 August 2018

#StateCaptureInquiry: Another witness implicates the Hawks in Gupta collusion

(Oupa Nkosi/M&G)
(Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

On Tuesday, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor concluded giving her testimony before the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, in which she revealed that the Hawks had made attempts to quash an investigation into the Guptas, who Mentor alleged offered her a position in then president Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet.

Mentor’s testimony, which began on Monday, was given in three parts, where she recounted her political career, her controversial state trip to China and the alleged meeting at the Gupta compound in Saxonwold in 2010.

READ MORE: #StateCaptureInquiry: Ajay Gupta to apply to cross-examine witnesses

Mentor remarked that much of her career has been spent “breaking rank” to expose incidents which she has deemed were wrong “on the basis of principle”.

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.

On Monday and Tuesday, Mentor revealed details of the 2010 meeting between herself and Ajay Gupta, during which he allegedly offered her the position of public enterprises minister. Barbara Hogan was subsequently removed from that position in a Cabinet reshuffle. Hogan was replaced by Malusi Gigaba.

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.

Mentor further alleged that Zuma was at the Gupta compound when the alleged bribe attempt was made.The Guptas have denied Mentor’s claims and Zuma said that he had “no recollection” of Mentor or of the events she claims occurred.

Mentor revealed that she resolved to lay charges against “a number of people” at the Durbanville police station in 2016. She said she had requested to make her statement at home, because of her allegations implicated high-profile officials.

Mentor recounted how two police captains came to her house the next morning, where they transcribed her statement. “We had breakfast, we had lunch, we had dinner; we continued with the task,” Mentor said. They only finished taking her statement at 9pm, Mentor said.

Mentor said that her handwritten statement was “airlifted” in a private jet to Pretoria at the behest of Berning Ntlemeza, who served as the head of the Hawks at the time.

Mentor alleged that when she was approached by the Hawks she was presented with a “corrupted” statement.

READ MORE: #StateCaptureInquiry: Ex-GCIS head Themba Maseko’s testimony moved up

A similar allegation against the Hawks was made by former deputy minister of finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, who testified before the inquiry on Friday. Jonas had testified that Ajay Gupta had offered him a bribe of R600-million and the position of minister of finance in exchange for his co-operation.

In his statement, Jonas said that Gupta told him the family controlled everything including the National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks and the National Intelligence Agency.

Jonas alleged that the head of the Hawks anti-corruption unit attempted to sabotage the case by forcing him to sign a statement that would halt the police investigation into the Guptas’ attempts to bribe him. The statement was presented to him by major general Zinhle Mnonopi.Advocate Phillip Mokoena, who led Friday’s testimony, asked Jonas if the police statement that he was asked to sign was false, to which Jonas replied in the affirmatory.The draft police statement — which Jonas was asked to read out for the commission — suggested that he had refused to co-operate with the investigation. Jonas said he refused to sign the statement.Jonas said that he was not shocked at the Hawks’ attempt to sabotage the case, because he had already suspected that the institution had been compromised.

On Monday Mentor told the commission that Hawks advocate Mandla Mtolo presented her with a typed version of her statement, which she pointed out contained a number of errors.

Mentor also said that Mtolo had told her that there had been a delay with her investigation because, she had mentioned Zuma in her statement. She said Mtolo told her to remove Zuma’s name from her statement.

Mentor said she agreed to remove Zuma’s name if it would mean the case would go ahead. She suggested that she intended to reinstate Zuma’s name at a later stage of the investigation.

Mentor read out her handwritten statement, which she said she had sought for more than two years. In it she said that certain ministers, “as well as the president to a certain extent”, have “a corrupt relationship that gives unfair advantage to the Gupta family”.

She was told by Mtolo to remove the phrase “as well as the president to a certain extent”, Mentor said.