Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Zondo commission: Mentor corroboration remains elusive

NEWS ANALYSIS

The Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture has hit yet another snag in its efforts to verify the testimony of former ANC MP, Vytjie Mentor.

On Tuesday, the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — heard briefly from mining magnate Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, a long-time friend of Mentor. But Mashile-Nkosi was not able to confirm testimony that places Mentor in Johannesburg at the time of an alleged meeting at the Gupta family’s Saxonwold compound.

Mentor testified before the commission in August last year and was the first witness to be cross-examined when she appeared before the commission again in February this year.

Her main allegation is that Gupta patriarch, Ajay, offered her the job of public enterprises minister at a clandestine meeting at his family’s Saxonwold home sometime in 2010. Mentor further alleged that then president Jacob Zuma was at the home, and attempted to calm her down after she rejected the offer.

Mentor told the commission that throughout her trip to Johannesburg, which she alleges was co-ordinated by Zuma’s presidential aide Lakela Kaunda, she was in contact with Mashile-Nkosi. She allegedly called Mashile-Nkosi four times during the course of her protracted encounter with the Guptas.

According to Mentor, Mashile-Nkosi offered to let her stay at her Johannesburg home if she missed her flight back to Cape Town.

On Tuesday, Mashile-Nkosi was not able to recall the alleged phone calls between herself and Mentor at the time of the 2010 meeting. “I would never recall a specific conversation because, you know, I would discuss with her everything and anything,” she said.

Mashile-Nkosi said that during the course of her 30-year friendship with Mentor the two had spoken on the phone on innumerable occasions.

Despite not remembering the phone calls, Mashile-Nkosi would not deny that they did occur. “I would not have an issue with that. She would call me from time to time,” she said.

“I think I know Vytjie more than a lot of people … and I have no reason to doubt it when she says that she did call me,” Mashile-Nkosi added.

Mashile-Nkosi further confirmed that Mentor would often stay at her home on visits to Johannesburg. “I consider her more than a friend. She is more of a younger sister to me,” she said of her relationship with Mentor.

Mentor’s evidence relating to the 2010 meeting has proven difficult to corroborate.

Her trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg was disputed by SAA travel records which could not account for it at the time of the alleged Saxonwold meeting. Mentor claimed that she travelled to Johannesburg on SAA on a Monday sometime in September or October 2010.

Mentor said she had had “no joy” with SAA’s records, noting discrepancies between them and Parliament’s record of her travels. The SAA records do not bear Mentor’s name and are not printed on any official letterhead.

An October 15 2010 trip between Cape Town and Johannesburg was reflected in Parliament’s records. But Mentor would not concede that this was the flight she took on the day of the Saxonwold meeting. October 15 would have been a Friday but Mentor was insistent in her testimony, saying she had travelled on a Monday.

Zondo emphasised the importance of pinning down the facts of the trip because failing to establish that it actually took place would compromise Mentor’s credibility.

“It is quite an important part, because before one can talk about whether there was a meeting or not, one has got to know how you got to the meeting,” Zondo said.

The commission could also not corroborate Mentor’s recollection of the Saxonwold compound. In December last year, the commission conducted an on-site inspection of the compound. But experts from the department of public works were unable to confirm definitely that the compound had the features Mentor detailed in August.

In response, Mentor suggested that the compound had undergone renovations in the nine years since she visited it.

Though Mashile-Nkosi’s did not cast doubt on her friend’s reliability as a witness, her testimony on Tuesday does represent another setback in the commission’s efforts to pin down the facts of Mentor’s allegations.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

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.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Despite promises, medical interns at 2 Military Hospital remain unpaid

The interns were told they would receive salaries at the end of April, but that did not happen

Khoikhoi versus US giant Amazon

The controversial River Club development gets the go-ahead, but opponents say they are heading for court

More top stories

Eastern Cape teenager drowns during an Equal Education leadership camp

The provincial department of education has called for a full investigation into the tragedy, while the organisation said an internal inquiry would be done by the Equal Education Law Centre.

Ipid report clears cops of misconduct for use of water...

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate found no misconduct was committed by police who used a water cannon on a crowd outside the Sassa office in Bellville, Cape Town

Cape winter storm causes two deaths, 57 families evacuated

The winter storm that made landfall on Wednesday morning and caused widespread damage is not yet over

Case of municipal manager who got luxury gifts for depositing...

Tsakane Ngobeni received holidays, expensive watches and beauty treatments from another VBS Mutual Bank accused
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×