Johannesburg - Former Denel Group CEO Riaz Saloojee has told the Zondo commission that he was introduced to former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba by the Gupta brothers.
Saloojee appeared at the inquiry on Wednesday and told the commission about how he first met two Gupta brothers, Atul and Tony “Rajesh” Gupta in 2012.
Saloojee was appointed as CEO of arms manufacturer Denel in January 2012 and shortly after he was called by Gupta proxy Salim Essa.
Essa told Saloojee that there were people that he had to meet who could help Denel with its business. Essa had also said the need for the meeting had “come from the top", which Saloojee assumed was former president Jacob Zuma. A meeting was set up and Saloojee and Essa met at a coffee shop in Joburg.
Saloojee said he did not know where the meeting was going to take place. Essa drove to the Gupta compound in Saxonwold. The former CEO said he never knew he was headed to the Gupta house.
When they arrived, Tony Gupta greeted them and ushered Saloojee into a room. In that room, Atul Gupta was present along with Gigaba.
He said he was introduced to Atul, who in turn introduced him to Gigaba. Saloojee said Atul told Gigaba that this is “your new guy at Denel”.
Gigaba responded; “These are friends (referring to the Guptas) and if you could work together in the future”.
The meeting took 7 minutes and Saloojee was driven back to the coffee shop by Essa who told him that “these were good guys (referring to the Guptas).
Saloojee said he understood the meeting to be the Guptas demonstrating their power and influence and how close they were to Gigaba.
“My only conclusion is that it was a show of force,” said Saloojee.
Even with his reservations about attending the first meeting, Saloojee said he returned to the Gupta compound for another meeting with the Guptas. Both these meetings happened within the first sixth months of his appointment as Denel CEO.
Saloojee said he was reluctant to ask Essa if the meeting could happen at his offices at Denel.
In the second meeting, Saloojee said he met with Essa and Tony Gupta and former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane was present in the meeting. He said he was also pointed to another individual who was introduced as ANC secretary general Ace Magashule’s son, Tony Gupta said they worked with him.
Saloojee said he was told by Essa, during the meeting, that “they” had supported his appointment as Denel CEO. He said he was shocked to hear this because he had gone through such a tough interview process which seemed above board.
Essa then told Saloojee that they were interested in doing business with Denel and specifically in the region of Asia and local areas that they could join in business.
He said as the meeting ended, Tony Gupta told them Essa will be their representative with discussions with Denel.
He said following that meeting, Essa called him numerous times for three months. He explained to Essa that he was preoccupied with Denel business.
A third meeting took place at the Gupta compound and this time Tony Gupta was present. Tony appeared visibly frustrated and told him that he was not cooperating.
Saloojee said he responded and told him that he has no issue with them doing business with Denel, but they had to do it in a proper manner.
The inquiry continues.