The Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture reconvenes on Monday, with former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor expected to take the stand once again.
Mentor, whose earlier testimony has been the most contentious so far, will be the first witness to be cross-examined. Mentor’s cross-examination was postponed in November last year, after the commission’s legal team asked for extra time to complete three critical investigations based on her initial evidence.
During the first hearings of Mentor’s testimony in August 2018, doubt was cast on the veracity of evidence she gave when she seemingly stumbled on delivering certain key facts.
The former president’s son, Duduzane Zuma, as well as controversial businessman Fana Hlongwane have been granted leave to cross-examine Mentor.
Mentor told the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that she was offered the job of public enterprises by Gupta patriarch, Ajay, at a clandestine meeting at their Saxonwold compound in 2010.
She further alleged that the former president emerged from one of the rooms at the compound after the offer was made.
Mentor conceded that she found it difficult to distinguish between the Gupta brothers, specifically Ajay and Atul. She also admitted to having mistakenly named Brian Hlongwa in her 2017 book No Holy Cows as having accompanied the Guptas on a trip to China. She had meant to name Hlongwane, adviser to former defence minister Joe Modise, who is said to have benefited from the 1999 arms deal.
She subsequently backtracked on this element of her statement. Her lawyers wrote to the Zondo commission to explain that she realised she had made a mistake in identifying Hlongwane.
“Our client accordingly wishes to concede that she made an error in identifying the person introduced to her, in the circumstances our client wishes to furnish and hereby give a sincere apology to Mr Hlongwane for any embarrassment and/or adverse imputation which the mistake might have caused,” her lawyers said.
In December 2018, investigators and evidence leaders for the commission reportedly visited the Gupta compound with Mentor to carry out an on-site inspection.
Mentor had described the compound in minute detail during the course of her testimony. In an affidavit to the commission, Ajay Gupta dismissed Mentor’s evidence as “fiction”.
The Guptas were denied leave to cross-examine Mentor after they refused to appear before the commission in person.