/ 25 March 2019

Free State government in Zondo commission’s crosshairs

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
The Incoming chief justice Raymond Zondo cautioned against populist accusations that the judiciary is captured. (Paul Botes/M&G)

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the chairperson of the commission of inquiry into state capture, has called on the Free State provincial government to hand over official information relating to the upcoming testimony of Mxolisi Dukwana.

Dukwana, a former Free State economic development MEC, was set to give evidence before the Zondo commission this week but had to ask for a postponement when he was unable to obtain evidence still in the hands of the Free State government.

It is expected that Dukwana will testify about how ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule allegedly took him to meet with the controversial Gupta family at their Saxonwold home. 

Magashule was the premier of the Free State at the time.

Last October, Dukwana revealed he would testify before the commission about the clandestine 2011 meeting, during which he claims Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta offered him R2-million a month in exchange for his signature putting the Guptas in charge of a multibillion rand construction deal.

Dukwana told City Press newspaper that Gupta promised to pay him every month for the duration of the contract to build a so-called “New City or City of Tomorrow” in the Lejweleputswa district municipality in the Free State.

According to City Press’ report, the project was expected to take up to 10 years to complete.

Zondo revealed on Monday that last October, the commission had reached out to Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela asking that she help the commission in obtaining documents — including official cell phone and travel records — that would help their investigation into Dukwana’s allegations.

“The premier of the free state … assured me that the provincial government of the Free State would co-operate fully and that it would facilitate access to such information,” he said.

Zondo said he was “surprised” the information has still not been obtained nearly five months after his phone call with Ntombela.

He further indicated that the commission has expressed its willingness to send its investigators to Bloemfontein to retrieve the information.

“I have directed that arrangements be made with the provincial government — particularly the DG of the province — to make it possible for investigators of the commission, a member of the legal team, a member of Mr Dukwana’s legal team, and Mr Dukwana to … meet in Bloemfontein,” Zondo announced.

Zondo said those arrangements must be made before the end of this week, so that Dukwana can testify next Friday.

This is not the first time the Free State government’s alleged links to the Guptas has been raised at the commission.

Last September Jan Gilliland, an accounting officer at national treasury, revealed that the province had spent more on advertising in Gupta-owned publications than any other province between 2011 and 2018.

Gilliland told the commission that, after tracking and tracing amounts paid to the two companies through treasury’s Basic Accounting System (BAS), he found that a total of R79.3-million was paid to Infinity Media and The New Age Media by the Free State provincial government.

The BAS is a database in which government transactions are recorded.

Gilliland also found that the office of the Free State premier spent R53-million out of this R79.3-million. The rest was paid by other provincial government departments. Magashule was premier at the time. He vacated the office in 2018 after he was elected ANC secretary general in 2017.

Magashule’s ties to the Guptas have been scrutinised since it emerged that his son, Tshepiso, had worked for Mabengela Investments — a company belonging to Rajesh Gupta and former president Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane.

In a January 2018 press briefing at Luthuli House, Magashule reportedly admitted to his son’s links to the Guptas: “My son has been working for the Guptas. It has never been a secret. When I became premier, he was working for the Guptas … but he is not involved with Vrede dairy.”

Magashule was reportedly fielding questions relating to the Vrede dairy farm scandal, in which he was implicated in his capacity as Free State premier.