Backtracking on Fana Hlongwane ‘may affect rest of Vytjie Mentor's evidence’
Mentor on Friday withdrew part of her statement at the inquiry, in which she said that Duduzane Zuma had introduced Hlongwane to her during a trip to China.
She had previously said in testimony a few months ago that Zuma was with Rajesh Gupta on the plane when he introduced Hlongwane to her.
Head of politics at Unisa, Professor Dirk Kotze said it was not the first time there had been a question mark around the evidence of Mentor.
“It’s not the first time there are questions about whether her memory is strong. That is why her evidence does not carry the same weight as that of former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas,” said Kotze.
Jonas had testified to the commission that Zuma had introduced him to Ajay Gupta and the latter had offered him R600000 in cash if he would agree to succeed his then boss, Nhlanhla Nene, in 2015.
Jonas further said Ajay Gupta also promised him a further R600 million if he would agree to the plan. Former president Jacob Zuma fired Nene a few months later and replaced him with Des van Rooyen. But Van Rooyen’s appointment lasted for four days and Zuma was forced to appoint Pravin Gordhan as finance minister after markets tumbled.
Kotze said the validity of Mentor’s evidence would be questioned after her U-turn yesterday.
He said she her evidence would be further examined by evidence leaders when she returned to answer more questions on her testimony.
Professor Susan Booysen of Wits University said Mentor’s backtracking on her evidence was tragic because the experiences she outlined took place a long time ago.
“At a human level, one can understand it. I don’t think she had ill intent (about Hlongwane),” said Booysen.
There were other contradictions in Mentor’s testimony.
Booysen said there was no room for error at the commission as was seen in the case of Nene when he lost his job.
It had emerged at the commission that Nene had met the Guptas when in the past he had denied this.
Booysen said there was no doubt Mentor’s evidence would be dented.
“Zondo will decide what evidence to take forward and he will take those parts that are corroborated by other people,” said Booysen.
She added that Mentor’s evidence would still come under intense scrutiny.