Former Transnet and Eskom chief financial officer (CFO) Anoj Singh on Friday accused his former driver of fabricating a story that he regularly emerged from the home of the Gupta family in Saxonwold with bags of money to frame him, possibly at the urging of an investigator at the Zondo commission.
Failing that the man, identified only as Witness 3 to protect his identity, had come under pressure from Transnet to implicate him in state capture and was complying because he feared losing his job if he did not do so, Singh claimed.
He rejected entire paragraphs from the affidavit of Witness 3, denying that he ever drove him to Saxonwold, and from there another 5km to the place where he kept some four safety-deposit boxes.
According to Singh, he did visit the Gupta residence between five and 10 times, but only ever to celebrate religious festivals and always in his private car.
He also conceded to keeping safety-deposit boxes with Knox Vault, but said these were to safeguard jewellery, documents and private cash earnings, including money he won gambling at the casino and the racetrack, or earned as a freelance consultant.
“You were moonlighting? While you were the CFO of Transnet?” evidence leader Anton Myburgh asked.
Singh replied that the prominence of the position gave him exposure that made others solicit his services.
Myburgh also wanted to know Singh felt the need to keep so many safety-deposit boxes.
“The safety and security situation in South Africa was and is an issue for everybody,” Singh answered.
On Witness 3’s version, Singh would knock on the boot of his official car when he left the house of the Gupta family and he would then open it from the inside.
On one occasion, the driver said, Singh opened the bag to give him money to buy lunch and he noticed that it was stacked with R100 and R200 notes.
Singh said it was true that he sometimes bought the driver lunch, because they had a good relationship, but rhetorically asked why he would have opened a bag of cash — which, in any event he denies existed — rather than simply pull notes from his wallet.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo commented that most people sometimes found they were short of cash in their wallets.
But Singh insisted that, if that had been the case, he would have gone to an ATM.
He flatly denied Witness 3’s testimony that on one occasion Singh left a work meeting after receiving a phone call and instructed him to drive to Saxonwold. According to the driver, Singh emerged after 90 minutes in a foul mood, snapped at him to turn the car radio off and then fell asleep en route to his own house.
Singh said the distance was too short to allow him to doze off and, in any event, he could not have fallen asleep if he were in an agitated state.
Both Myburgh and Zondo made the point that Witness 3’s testimony went into considerable detail and that it was a remarkable coincidence that he was right about the name of the company at which Singh leased safety deposit boxes. Even their estimation of the number of visits to Saxonwold coincided, they noted.
“You see how this looks?” Zondo asked.
“So, on your version, he must have made up all these stories? Put off the radio, fall asleep … He must have sat down and said ‘how am I going to frame Mr Singh?’ and fabricated all these details.
“Where does he come up with this from?”
Singh replied: “I am just as startled as you.”
Zondo then asked why the man would do this.
“What Witness 3 is trying to infer from this is that I was under the instruction from the Guptas. So, as soon as they called, I would go,” Singh said.
He said he could only guess that either the company or investigators working for the commission seeking to create a particular narrative had given the man information to include in his evidence.
“If he was fearing for his job or under duress at Transnet; if he was, as I suggested, instructed by either Transnet or the commission’s investigators, then he would end up with a compelling, detailed account.”
Zondo expressed surprise that Singh could allege that the witness was “spoon-fed” the information by the commission and abruptly called a five-minute adjournment after Singh mentioned the first name of the witness.
Myburgh said his team had assured him that they learned of the information only from Witness 3.
The deputy chief justice on Monday deplored an attempt to assassinate Witness 1, a colleague at Transnet of the driver, last Saturday and it is understood that efforts were made to enhance the security protection of this group of witnesses.
Earlier this week, former Transnet and Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe was confronted with similar testimony, from Witness 1, that he too had emerged from the Guptas’ residence with bags of money.
Molefe conceded that he carried a bag from the family’s home but said there was no money inside it.