Johannesburg - A seemingly idle query on Facebook on the influence of the Gupta family on the government has turned into another nightmare for President Jacob Zuma.
DA member Johann Abrie was left wondering how many ministers had been offered jobs by the politically connected Guptas on his Facebook page, when former ANC MP and public enterprises committee chairwoman Vytjie Mentor dropped the bombshell on Tuesday.
She posted from Thailand at about 3am that the Guptas had offered her a ministerial post before. She later removed the post, but by then, screen grabs had been taken and were circulating on social media.
This is a screen grab of the Facebook post by Vytjie Mentor about Gupta's pic.twitter.com/MQpBWfMeCk
According to Abrie, the drama began when he commented that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had failed to confirm or deny that his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, was indeed offered a job by the Guptas.
“The debate ensued and a lot of people took part in the discussions. One of the participants, a friend of mine Vytjie Mentor, made her comments. That's how the whole thing happened. She made the revelations (about being offered a ministerial post),” Abrie said.
Mentor had written on Abrie’s wall that she was previously asked by the Guptas to become “minister of public enterprises when Barbara Hogan got the chop, provided I would drop the SAA flight route to India and give it to them”.
“I refused, so I was never made a minister,” she added.
“The president was in another room when they (Guptas) offered me this in Saxonworld (sic), (the Guptas' family home in Joburg).”
Contacted for comment on Tuesday, Hogan said she had no knowledge of this matter whatsoever.
Mentor’s comments about the Guptas were, however, not the first remarks to be made on the social networks. It also emerged on Tuesday that she had previously made similar posts on the influence of the Gupta family.
In one post last month, she wrote: “The nuclear deal was meant for the Guptas and the president via his son (Duduzane)”.
“More than half of the (ANC) top six officials and additionals in Luthuli (House) are beneficiaries of the Guptas too, lihambile izwelethu bagithi (our land is gone),” she posted.
Mentor was sacked as committee chairwoman in December 2010 after it emerged that she got Transnet to bankroll a trip to China to join Zuma’s entourage in Beijing. Her first-class travel was at a cost of R138 000.
Transnet paid more than R155 000 for the trip and other amenities from its sponsorship budget.
On Tuesday, however, the Gupta family spokesman, Gary Naidoo, dismissed Mentor’s assertions.
“No meeting has ever taken place between ANC MP Vytjie Mentor and any member of the Gupta family or their representatives, and no job offer was made,” Naidoo said.
"Facebook is not the appropriate forum to air such a complaint, and we can only assume it is an attempt to gain personal profile and media attention. We challenge Vytjie Mentor to file an affidavit.
“South Africa has a robust constitution and a strict process governing appointment of ministers and deputy ministers. We have every faith that if anybody tried to abuse power around appointments, they would be rebuffed by our constitution and our strong political leadership.”
Mentor did not respond to requests for comment on her Facebook page on Tuesday.
Presidential spokesman Bongani Majola refused to comment, saying “the president has no recollection of Ms Mentor”.