Jonas stands by his state capture testimony
Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas has defended his testimony before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.
During his Friday appearance before the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — Jonas stood by his bombshell testimony, which he delivered last August.
In his earlier testimony, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas alleged that he was whisked away to the Gupta family’s Saxonwold compound for a clandestine meeting with one of the Gupta brothers. According to the former minister, the 2015 meeting was co-ordinated by arms deal adviser Fana Hlongwane and the former president’s son, Duduzane Zuma.
Last year, Jonas said the meeting with Zuma was originally supposed to happen at the Hyatt hotel in Rosebank, but Zuma asked that the meeting be moved to a more private venue.
Jonas alleged that he was offered a promotion and a bribe of R600-million by the Guptas in exchange for his co-operation in furthering the controversial family’s business interests.
His testimony also yielded two new and serious allegations: a Gupta brother — supposedly Gupta patriarch, Ajay — had threatened to kill Jonas, and senior officials in the Hawks had tried to foil an investigation of the bribe.
“At the end of the meeting, Mr Gupta repeated that they had information on me and if I suggested that the meeting had occurred, they would kill me,” Jonas told the commission last year.
Zuma and Hlongwane have been granted leave to cross-examine Jonas. The Gupta brothers were denied the same privilege, owing to their refusal to appear before the commission to give their own versions in person.
On Friday, the affidavits of Hlongwane, Zuma and two Gupta brothers were put to Jonas. All four statements to the commission deny that any of the Gupta brothers had attended the meeting and that Jonas was offered a bribe.
Zuma alleges in his affidavit to the commission that Jonas was fully aware that the meeting was being moved to the Gupta residence and that he showed no discomfort at this fact. On Friday, Jonas denied this.
“That is untrue,” he said.
In his affidavit, Ajay Gupta further denied that Jonas was threatened. According to Gupta, the allegation that he threatened to kill Jonas was made “for the first time ever” at the commission. “In his version to the public protector he never made such claims, even when he was specifically questioned about any threats,” said Gupta in his affidavit.
Jonas conceded that he could not identify exactly which Gupta brother attended the meeting, but stood by his testimony that a Gupta brother been present.
“It could have been another Gupta brother,” he said, adding that at the time he assumed it was Ajay. He told the commission that he later realised that he could not tell the difference between the infamous brothers.
Jonas also stood by the allegations that he was offered a bribe and was threatened by one of the Gupta brothers.
When asked about why he did not disclose the threat to the former public protector, Thuli Madonsela, during an interview conducted for her State of Capture report, Jonas said that his statement before the commission in August last year was his most comprehensive.
His Zondo commission testimony was the first time he made the allegations relating to Saxonwold meeting without fear of reprisal, Jonas added.
Referring to his previous encounters with the Hawks, Jonas said: “I didn’t trust anyone.”
Jonas alleged last year that the former head of the Hawks anti-corruption unit, major general Zinhle Mnonopi, 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 draft police statement — which Jonas was asked to read out for the commission last August — suggested that he had refused to co-operate with the investigation. Jonas testified that he had refused to sign the statement.
The hearing continues.