Former Denel chair Daniel Mantsha admits to Gupta-sponsored trips
Johannesburg - Former Denel board chairperson Daniel Mantsha faced tough questions at the state capture commission on the so-called ‘free’ trips to Dubai and India allegedly funded by the Guptas.
There were moments where he appeared to be impatient when responding, which prompted evidence leader advocate Paul Kennedy SC to remind him that the commission needs answers.
When asked the reasons for overseas trips, he said they were personal trips even though they were funded or organised by the Guptas.
Kennedy read out about a trip to Dubai whose passengers were Duduzane Zuma, Shanice Zuma and Daniel Manisha.
“Do you remember the trip to Dubai? And are you aware the invoice was paid by Westdawn Investments Pty (Ltd)?” asked Kennedy.
Mantsha said he remembered the trip to Dubai.
He was asked if was aware that the company was a shareholder, he responded in the affirmative.
Kennedy asked Mantsha to confirm if Duduzane Zuma was listed as a shareholder of Westdawn, and Manstha confirmed that he was in fact was a shareholder in 2016.
“My recollection was Duduzane Zuma and Tony Gupta were the shareholders. I am not aware of Salim Essa being a shareholder at Westdawn Investments,” said Mantsha.
Mantsha was questioned on the purpose of the trip to Dubai and he told the commission it was a personal trip.
“I have a younger brother who has lived in Dubai for 10 years now, we have been talking about lots of things, including business opportunities. I did not go there for Denel,” said Mantsha.
He revealed that he asked Ashu Chawla (former Sahara computers CEO) to arrange the trip.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo questioned Mantsha why would he ask Chawla to make travelling arrangements for him.
Mantsha said he had interacted with Chawla before, he had told him that whenever he wanted to travel, he could assist him.
Kennedy questioned if he did not see anything wrong as a chairperson of a board of a state entity.
“We are entitled to arrange personal trips, I don't see anything wrong asking Chawla,” said Mantsha.
He added that he always knew that VR Laser was owned by Essa until VR Laser revealed that 15% of shares belonged to Tony Gupta and Duduzane Zuma.
“I was surprised. I did ask Tony Gupta if he was part of VR Laser, he told me that Essa borrowed money and struggled to pay, they had an agreement to give them a percentage,” said Mantsha.
Kennedy asked if Mantsha socialised with Duduzane Zuma in Dubai.
“Duduzane Zuma is somebody that I’ve known for quite some time, at some stage, even stayed in the same place,” he said.
Kennedy read that Mantsha’s ticket cost just over R33 000, including tax.
Kennedy said the travel agent sent the invoice to Westdawn Investments, Mantsha said Chawla made the arrangements not him.
He maintained that there was nothing sinister between him and Chawla’s engagements.
Kennedy asked Mantsha if it was a good idea for Denel to do business with VR Laser.
“There was no black business doing business with Denel. Mr Essa bought this company. It is a black owned company, we went for this company as part of transformation,” he said.
Kennedy read an email dated August 4, 2015, from Freedom OPS to Mr Ashu.
It read: “Now there are 09 passengers on sector FAOR-VABB on Aug.6. If possible kindly provide us passport copy of Mr. Singhala.”
Kennedy said again Chawla’s name appears as the one that organised a trip to India with the Gupta family.
“It was a personal trip to India in their own plane. I once expressed a desire to visit India, they said they would give me a lift when they go,” said Mantsha.
Zondo asked if he said it was a lift, did he mean it was free.
“Yes it was free,” he said.
Zondo asked how long Mantsha had known the Guptas? ”Around May or June 2014”, he said
He said one of the Gupta youngsters once took him around to show him places in India.