There was nothing untoward about moving a private meeting with former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas to the Gupta residence in Saxonwold, the Zondo commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture heard on Monday.
During his appearance before the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, Duduzane Zuma was questioned about his decision to hold a meeting with Jonas and controversial businessman Fana Hlongwane at the Gupta residence.
Zuma said he arranged the October 2015 meeting between the pair to clear up rumours that Hlongwane was blackmailing Jonas. While Hlongwane and Jonas had a longstanding friendship prior to the meeting, Zuma had no existing relationship with the latter.
During his appearance before the commission last year, Jonas alleged that alleged that he was whisked away to the Gupta family’s Saxonwold compound for a clandestine meeting with one of the Gupta brothers.
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 said.
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.
On Monday evidence leader, Phillip Mokoena SC, probed Zuma on why he elected to move the meeting to the Gupta residence, and not another more private venue.
Mokoena pointed out that Zuma, Hlongwane and Jonas were all “comrades” insofar as they were all members of the ANC. He asked why the ANC headquarters at Luthuli House was not considered as an alternative venue for the meeting.
Holding a meeting at Luthuli House would have been “strange” as the meeting had nothing to do with the ANC, Zuma said.
Zuma added: “At the time it was proximity and timeframes issues. We had to choose the closest location.”
Mokoena then asked why Zuma’s own Saxonwold hold, just a short walk from the Gupta residence, was not considered as an alternative location to hold the meeting.
Zuma said he would not have held a meeting at his private residence. “I conducted many meetings from Gupta residence,” he said.
Zondo intervened, pointing out that, on Zuma’s version, the meeting was organised to discuss something “which had nothing to do with the Guptas”. Zondo further asked why the “personal matter” would not have been held at a private residence.
Mokoena further suggested that the meeting was moved to the Gupta residence “simply to accommodate that there must be a Gupta brother present at the meeting”.
“That’s not true,” Zuma responded.
Zuma was also questioned on why he was asked to facilitate the meeting, despite having no relationship with Jonas. “It seems strange why someone who is a stranger should be asked to make arrangements [between two friends],” Zondo said.
The former president’s son responded, saying he does not “see it as strange that an unknown entity tries to resolve” the issue between Jonas and Hlongwane.
“I was tasked with this,” Zuma said, adding that he had raised the issue of the rumours with Hlongwane on a number of occasions before he was asked to facilitate the meeting.
He added: “If you are going to raise these sort of issues, you have to have some skin in the game.”