Manuel to drag Mbalula into state capture saga

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel will give evidence before the Zondo commission in testimony that is expected to implicate ANC elections head Fikile Mbalula in the state capture project.

Manuel is expected to tell the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, about his speculation that Mbalula’s 2010 appointment as sports minister was influenced by the controversial Gupta family.

In a 2017 open letter published in the Daily Maverick, Manuel alleged that Mbalula made a tearful confession in front of a national executive committee meeting about his interaction with Atul Gupta, who allegedly knew he would be sports minister before he did.

Mbalula has not denied the allegation, but has said that it was actually Gupta patriarch, Ajay, who prematurely congratulated him about his appointment.

Last month, Ajay Gupta was denied leave to cross-examine Manuel based on his refusal to appear before the commission in South Africa.

The Guptas have indicated their willingness to testify via video call or at another agreed upon location, but have cited the possibility of unfair prosecution as a reason for their unwillingness to return to the country.

Counsel for the Guptas, Mike Hellens SC, has previously argued that his clients have been subjected to unfair and reckless investigations by the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority, referring to the provisional withdrawal of charges relating to the Estina Dairy scandal.

But earlier this month, a warrant for Ajay’s arrest was dropped, meaning he is no longer a fugitive from justice.

Though not a frequent guest of the Guptas at their infamous Saxonwold compound, Mbalula has previously admitted to meeting Ajay there.

He has also admitted that he was invited to the controversial Gupta wedding in 2013, but decided not to go because of the landing at the Waterkloof air force base.

Last month, Mbalula reportedly called on ANC members to welcome the revelations coming out of the Zondo commission.

“Some have expressed reservation, but they need to accept that the state capture is part of our own resolutions, that’s what comes with the bad and it needs to be probed and it can’t be fudged and put under the carpet,” Mbalula reportedly said on the sidelines of the party’s January 8 celebrations, marking the liberation movement’s 107th anniversary, in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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