Guptas tried to bribe me, Kona tells Zondo Commission
Johannesburg - Former acting SAA chief executive Vuyisile Kona has detailed the Guptas’ attempts to bribe him in an effort to influence the awarding of a consultancy contract.
Kona was testifying at the Zondo Commission yesterday. He served briefly as chief executive at SAA between 2012 and 2013. Before that he served as SAA’s board chairperson, with Dudu Myeni later replacing him. Kona recalled “haunting” details surrounding his meeting with the Guptas at their homestead in Saxonwold in October 2012.
He spoke of how at the time of his appointment as acting chief executive, the airline had been facing financial constraints and had to ask for a bailout from the National Treasury. The Treasury needed a business plan from the company, and Kona directed his supply chain division to find a consultancy firm that would help SAA draw up a business plan.
Kona said two companies had offered their services. Lufthansa Consultancy offered a deal of R6 million while McKinsey and Company offered the deal for R40m. He said it was clear that Lufthansa was the most affordable option.
Kona added that while this deal was under way, he had been approached by Cabinet minister Malusi Gigaba’s adviser Siyabonga Mahlangu, who insisted that he meet some business partners. The meeting was actually with the Guptas at their household in Saxonwold.
The meeting took place in October 2012, and Duduzane Zuma, Tshepiso Magashule, the son of former Free State premier Ace Magashule, and Mahlangu and Tony Gupta were there.
Kona alleged he was offered R100000 in cash on the spot by the Guptas, and was taken aback by the offer and refused the money. “Then the conversation comes to the issue of the business plan.
Tony first said he was welcoming me into the family. He said we know you have not been paid and he offered me R100000. Indeed I had not been paid my September salary.
He then said he could offer me R500000. I told him I do not need the money. His expression changed and he was like, ‘What is the story with the consulting contract?’ Their money was there in cash. I started feeling uncomfortable with the whole thing. Nobody is going to give you that much money for nothing,” he said.
Kona said that when he refused the money, Gupta’s attitude changed and he immediately started asking questions about the consultancy contract. “He asked about the contract and I said yes the people have been informed (appointed) and he was livid. He asked who is going to be doing the consultancy, and I said it would be Lufthansa. Then immediately after that the meeting ended.” Kona said he was treated harshly by fellow board members and the department after the meeting."