Former Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula gave evidence at the Zondo Commission. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - When former sports minister Fikile Mbalula stood up in an African National Congress (ANC) national executive committee (NEC) meeting in 2011 detailing his frustrations with the Gupta family, none of the party top brass in the meeting, including former president Jacob Zuma, supported him or indicated a willingness to deal with the controversial family's influence over the State.

Mbalula told the state capture commission of inquiry that he could not understand why the more than 80 ANC NEC members could not deal with the Gupta issue or even appoint an internal investigation. Instead, an NEC member stood up and ''rubbished'' what he said.

Mbalula, who is now ANC head of elections, said he was the first person to raise the Gupta matter in the ANC, as he was concerned that if left unattended, it could become a crisis for the governing party.

''I took that matter to NEC to share my experience that this thing of Guptas interfering and calling ministers to [Gupta compound] Saxonwold will land us in a crisis. I said they [Guptas] enjoyed so much power that not even ANC members enjoy.''

''We were taught in the ANC to raise issues in meetings...I was not at a rally or being malicious. I exploded...and said that I was told by Gupta I was going to be sports minister and it turned out that way. I had no other person's confidence doing that... it was my political conscience that guided me.''

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo asked Mbalula to detail the mood in the NEC meeting and how the party top brass responded. 

''You rose in the meeting of the highest body in governing party and told them what happened to you and that it was became important then that the ANC NEC becomes aware of what is happening, not rumours. If I understand your evidence, you wanted something to be done about this? What happened?''

Mbalula said members quietened and looked down.

''That meeting went quiet...people bowed their heads. They were shrinking in their chairs. One member rose only to dismiss what I said, and said 'this is not a beer hall, people must come here sober'. No one stood up...but I understand that because standing up against the president [Zuma] was unheard of because you could be reshuffled at midnight. Zuma himself did not respond either...I cannot recall what then secretary general Gwede Mantashe said. I got a pat on the back by members after the meeting who said I was brave...and that was it.''

Mbalula did not disclose the name of the member who rubbished his statements in the NEC meeting.

The next time the Gupta matter found its way onto the ANC NEC agenda was after former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas announced publicly the controversial family's attempts to get him to agree to become finance minister in exchange for a R600 million bribe in 2016, and the subsequent GuptaLeaks, a trove of leaked emails that opened a can of worms showing the extent of state capture at key public institutions, most notably state-owned enterprises. 

Mbalula said his fellow comrades in the party then started speaking out condemning Zuma's relationship with the controversial family in the months leading up to the ANC's Nascrec conference in 2017.

''The Gupta issue was then later condemned by the party in the face of the Gupta plane landing at Waterkloof Airbase and GuptaLeaks. The president [Zuma] always defended his relationship with them vehemently. He would say he doesn't know why people go there [in Saxonwold] as individuals because he never sent them.,'' said Mbalula.

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel then wrote an open letter in June 2017 to Mbalula, reminding him of the ''tears he shed'' over the Guptas in the 2011 ANC NEC meeting. Manuel testified before the commission in February.

African News Agency/ANA