Former intelligence boss Mo Rieaz Shaik. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - Former intelligence boss Mo Rieaz Shaik said the Guptas could have been stopped if an intelligence operation had not been halted by former State Security minister Siyabonga Cwele.

Shaik, who headed-up the foreign branch, took the stand at the commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday and said Cwele would not listen to reason on the possible questions and basis for investigating the family.

He detailed a 2011 meeting with Cwele where he said he, along with his intelligence colleagues, fought to prove that the investigation was necessary.

The three intelligence officials, including Gibson Njenje and Jeff Maqetuka, had decided to pursue an investigation into the Gupta family.

Shaik said several factors motivated for the investigation.

The first was a call from US intelligence services and concerns from the then US ambassador to South Africa about the Guptas' involvement in the purchase of a uranium mine.

The Americans were worried that the Iranian government may be involved in funding the project.

Shaik, Njenje and Maqetuka were also concerned about national security, focused on allegations of the Guptas' intimate knowledge of former president Jacob Zuma’s 2010 Cabinet reshuffle.

Shaik said another concern was a report that Fikile Mbalula declared in an ANC NEC meeting that he had been called by one of the Gupta brothers and informed that he would be appointed as minister of sports.

“Our concern was maybe there was a breach of security in the office of the president, or that the Guptas overheard a conversation at the office of the president. All these matters fall into the issues of intelligence, and a concern of a breach at the highest level of the government,” he said.

Shaik said that after debating, it was decided the Guptas would be investigated. He said that shortly after Cwele called him, Njenje and Maqetuka flew to Cape Town. “The minister was having none of it. We could not find each other. The minister made this matter incredibly personal.

“He argued that the reason we wanted to further this investigation was to advance the interests of Mr Njenje. I denied that and we all did. We tried to explain, but the minister did not listen. It seemed to me that the minister did not want this investigation to happen. The meeting was incredibly tense,” Shaik said.

He said that in his opinion Cwele had no legal grounds to stop them from investigating and they informed him that they would continue with the investigation and there was justification for it.

“The minister said: ‘I am instructing you not to continue with the investigation.’ We said we are going to investigate. Maqetuka then said we want to discuss the matter with the president directly. We did not accept to stop the investigation.”

He asserted that the Guptas could have been stopped if the investigation had been allowed to continue.

“If we were allowed to do the investigation we would have been talking about different things now. He (Cwele) caused harm to the well-being of the state. Immediately after this incident, there was the matter of the Waterkloof landing. It was a narcissistic demonstration of power and it should not have happened. I do not think we would have had the Waterkloof affair if we were allowed to investigate,” he said.

Shaik, along with Njenje, was fired in late 2011 by Cwele who said the two were removed for conducting an “irregular” investigation.

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