Former president Jacob Zuma had ‘no interaction’ with former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor at the Gupta residence, the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Tuesday.
On the second day of his appearance before the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — Zuma disputed Mentor’s allegation that he emerged from a room in the Gupta family’s Saxonwold residence to comfort her after she had been offered a ministerial position by Gupta patriarch, Ajay.
Last August, Mentor told the commission that she was whisked away to the Gupta family’s home on a trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg that was planned by Zuma’s aide Lakela Kaunda. Mentor told the commission that she was under the impression that she would be meeting with the then president when she got to Johannesburg.
At the clandestine Saxonwold meeting, Mentor alleged that Gupta offered her the position of minister of public enterprises in exchange for her cooperation in shutting down the South African Airways route to Mumbai.
Mentor alleged that Ajay Gupta told her that Zuma knew of the meeting.
But on Tuesday Zuma said: “I had no interaction with this witness. Nothing.”
The former president further denied knowing anything about Mentor’s attempts to meet with him and refuted her claim that Kaunda would have arranged such a meeting. “Kaunda had nothing to do with that,” Zuma said.
Last year, Mentor told the commission that Gupta had knowledge of the impending Cabinet reshuffle in which then public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan was replaced by Malusi Gigaba.
In response to this allegation, Zuma said: “Ajay Gupta was not part of government. He was not part of the people that even should have been consulted … He shouldn’t have known.”
When asked by Zondo whether Gupta was consulted on ministerial appointments, Zuma said Gupta had “nothing to with government”.
“They were discussing the two of them. I had nothing to do with it … I am not there. I don’t know why they reached that kind of discussion,” he said.
Zuma added that Gupta never spoke to him about ministerial appointments.
Zuma said he had never been at the Gupta residence at the same time as Mentor, but confirmed that he does recall who she is.
Mentor was cross-examined on her evidence before the commission in February.
During Mentor’s cross-examination, her trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg in 2010 was disputed after records from SAA could not account for it at the time of the alleged Saxonwold meeting.
Mentor challenged this, saying that she had had “no joy” with SAA’s records, noting discrepancies between them and Parliament’s records of her travels.
Her allegation that Kaunda called her the Sunday before the Saxonwold meeting to set up what was supposed to be a rendezvous with Zuma was also disputed when phone records provided by Kaunda did not reflect the phone call. Mentor also questioned the validity of the phone records.
On Monday, Zuma’s attorney, Daniel Mantsha, referred to what he deemed were faults in Mentor’s evidence. “Are you really calling him to answer things that it was proved before the commission … there is no proof?” he said.
Paul Pretorius SC, the head of the commission’s legal team, acknowledged Mantsha’s inference before questioning Zuma on Mentor’s evidence on Tuesday, pointing out that no finding has been made on the credibility of her evidence.