Former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba on Friday in testimony to the Zondo commission faulted the Pretoria high court for finding that he had leant on the Hawks to arrest and intimidate his estranged wife while they presented no evidence linking her to an alleged plot to kill him.
“I had actually received threats to my life that I needed to act on,” Gigaba said, before repeatedly terming the ruling “curious” and “puzzling”. He hinted that once Norma Mngoma was arrested, matters became more convoluted as crime intelligence sought to shield her because she may have been useful to them politically.
The high court in February set aside Mngoma’s arrest by the Hawks seven months earlier and held that the confiscation of her cellphones and laptops by the police, as well as the deletion of information from these, had been unlawful.
Judge Cassim Sardiwalla said her arrest “appeared to be motivated by an abuse of power by a former minister” and the argument by the officers that they were investigating a conspiracy to commit murder against Gigaba was “not sustainable in light of the fact they have alluded to no further information on this alleged conspiracy”.
“How the judgment strayed into this matter puzzles me,” Gigaba said. “The allegations of a conspiracy to kill me, in my opinion, were not before this court.”
Gigaba said he failed in particular to understand how the court could come to a conclusion about his actions or the existence or otherwise of a threat without having the benefit of his version of events. It prompted Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to point out that it was not obliged to solicit his testimony because he was not a party to the case.
Regarding the finding that he abused his powers by involving the Hawks, Gigaba said by the time Mngoma was arrested, he had none, not having been a member of cabinet for more than a year, and added that the judge’s remarks were deeply damaging to him.
“I reject that there was an abuse of power on my part. In 2020, I had not been a minister for more than a year and the fact that I am a former minister does not give me power that I do not have.”
He said after he was sent a whatsapp message early last year indicating his wife was conspiring to have him killed, he was not sure whether it was real or a case of political disinformation but he needed to act.
“I had no presumption, I had no preconceived ideas as to the veracity of the allegation or its truthfulness. It could very well have been the work of intelligence or naughty agencies that were trying to cause problems in my household [but] I could not take for granted that I had actually received a threat to my life that I needed to act on.”
He said when Mngoma damaged a friend’s car at their home with a vegetable slicer in July last year, he had a right of recourse to the Hawks because his wife’s anger was such that he felt intimidated.
“When the same person who is alleged to be involved in the conspiracy to kill me then does what happened on the night of July at my residence, it behove to call the Hawks and say ‘what do you suggest I do, this person has done this’. And they took the matter.”
Gigaba said when the court ruled on Mngoma’s arrest, the issue of the threat to his life was still under investigation.
“What the judge in this case curiously does is to undermine the threat to my life which had been received by my, without calling me or the police,” he said, adding that the police had not reached a conclusion and and therefore neither they nor the court could rule out a link to her vandalising the vehicle.
Gigaba said he became more concerned still that sinister forces were at play when, after his wife’s arrest, the Hawks received a phone call from a senior crime intelligence officer who “claims that I had paid a bribe to them to arrest Ms Mngoma”.
“On what basis did he make that allegation?” he asked, before offering his own theory.
“Criminal intelligence and state security and certain people in the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] were involved in a political plot of sorts which involved me and when Ms Mngoma was arrested it interfered with their asset, which was Ms Mngoma, and therefore created a situation in which they had to exonerate her.”
He went on to suggest that the court ruling had informed Mngoma’s testimony to the commission, which he on Friday again dismissed as motivated by malice and bitterness, to the extent that she could claim that proof linking him to state capture was erased from her phone and laptop.
“To me this judgment was in itself a curious judgment which set the tone for what was to be said here … that Malusi has done this but that information is not available because it was extracted from my phone.”
The court ordered the Hawks to restore all information unlawfully removed from Mngoma’s technology. It found that their obtaining and executing a warrant of arrest for malicious damage to property and crimen injurioa when “there is no link between those crimes and that crime of conspiracy of murder it allegedly was initially investigating” was a clear abuse of her rights.
Waiting until a Friday afternoon to execute the arrest warrant, moreover ensured that she was likely to spend a weekend in a jail cell “in the middle of winter during a pandemic”.
Finally, Gigaba said he did not seek to intimidate Mngoma by calling the police and did not see why Sardiwalla raised patriarchy in his ruling on her arrest.
“I dispute the fact that the warrant had an ulterior motive,” he said.
“The judge then makes a statement which I find very problematic, that the scourge and dominance and patriarchy in our society must be pierced and women’s rights to equal treatment must be protected. But then so should our rights as men.”
He insisted that his conduct towards Mngoma when she was arrested was impeccable. He said he sought to withdraw the charge that led to it, and when he learnt that he could not, he put up R5 000 bail to secure her release.
Describing Mngoma as “someone who likes money”, Gigaba on Friday reiterated that his wife tried to leverage her testimony at the commission to extract a sizeable divorce settlement from him.
He insisted that there was no truth to the testimony of a former Transnet driver, backed by that of Mngoma, that he received large sums of cash from the Gupta brothers. He described Ajay Gupta as a friend from whom he deliberately distanced himself when it became apparent that the family was seeking to wield political influence.