Mosebenzi Zwane tells Zondo commission Gupta brothers did not pay for his trip to India
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Johannesburg - Former Minerals Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane claims that the Gupta family did not pay for his trip to India despite his email being used to make travel arrangements.
During his appearance at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Thursday, Zwane indicated that it was a coincidence that he shared a flight to India with the choir he founded – which the Gupta family paid for.
He claimed that he visited India to conduct oversight on the Indian company, Paras, which he believed was contracted to manage the Free State dairy farm project.
Zwane explained that he believed it was the Agriculture Department that paid for his trip.
When questioned about his email being used to make the travel arrangements for the choir and himself, Zwane said he lent his iPad to the choir organiser, but was not privy to the details exchanged using his email.
Zwane maintained that his trip to India was for official purposes to conduct oversight over Paras.
He further claimed that he did not know Estina was contracted to manage his brainchild dairy farm project in Vrede, Free State.
But Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said that it was suspicious that Zwane stayed in India for the same duration as his choir.
"You are one of the founders of the choir, or whatever the position is, you have an association with them. There is an email from your gadget, which lists you as one of the people going on this trip with the choir." You are on the same flight as them to India," Zondo said.
Zondo questioned Zwane's oversight capabilities as MEC.
"I find it difficult to understand that on a project that is so important to the province and your department, and given that you could have been questioned about the project at any time, you didn't know that Estina played a role in the project," he said.
But Zwane insisted that in his oversight role, he only acted upon documents that were brought to him by his subordinates.
However, Zondo again questioned Zwane's responsibilities.
"Are you saying, as a MEC who plays an oversight role, you must only look at what documents officials have given to you? You don't request or look at other documents that are relevant to the project?" Zondo questioned.
"It shouldn't be an acceptance of what is given to you by officials. You should be asking for documents, especially if you are playing an oversight role," Zondo said.
While Zwane maintained he had not known about Estina, evidence leader advocate Pule Seleka called him to answer about a late Friday meeting where he allegedly called on officials to process an urgent payment of R30 million to Estina.
But Zwane denied this, saying the meeting was to discuss the re-prioritising of project funding in preparation for a meeting the next week.
Seleka said he was "intrigued" by Zwane's lack of knowledge on the project as the Free State dairy farm project was his brainchild, inspired by Zwane's childhood and father, who was a farmer.
"You had multiple meetings with the community and promised to change their lives, but it seems that you have dropped the ball," Seleka said.
Zwane conceded that the project was "badly managed" but maintained that if the management was done well, "my view is this project is still the best project for the people of the Free State".