Johannesburg - The ANC's head of elections Fikile Mbalula has told the Zondo commission that he "froze" and was shocked when he got a call from Ajay Gupta congratulating him on his appointment as minister of sports and recreation.
Mbalula appeared at the inquiry on Friday to recount his encounter with the Guptas. His appearance follows that of former finance minister Trevor Manuel and former communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda. Both men confirmed that they were present in an ANC NEC meeting in 2011 when Mbalula confessed that he had been told of his ministerial appointment by the Guptas.
Mbalula told the commission that he got a call from Ajay Gupta, he cannot remember the exact date, who said "congratulations minister of sports and recreation". The former minister said he froze and was shocked that a person, who is not even a member of the ANC, could call him and inform of such an important appointment.
He said after the call he spoke to a friend and told him that he got a call from Ajay Gupta and proceeded to discuss how problematic the family was.
This is what Mbaula said he told the August 20, 2011, ANC NEC meeting. He said he was emotionally affected when he recalled the call to his fellow NEC members.
“I raised the issue because the matter of the Guptas was all over the place and people were talking about the influence they were exerting on the leadership of the ANC. I felt that it was time that we raise this that I have had a personal encounter with a Gupta regarding my appointment,” said Mbalula.
“I received a call from Ajay Gupta where he congratulated me even before I was appointed as minister. I did not know that I was going to be a minister of what. I had had a discussion with former president Jacob Zuma about my problems in the ministry of police with the minister of police, and he told me to hang on. Now somebody called me congratulating me. I was sharing part of my experience to say that that this thing of the Guptas calling ministers is a big problem and will land us in a big crisis,” said Mbalula.
In a statement submitted to the commission, Ajay Gupta denied that he called Mbalula instead he said he heard about Mbalula's appointment through the media.
Mbalula denied this and said it was impossible for the media to have that much detail at the time.
When asked by commission chair deputy justice Raymond Zondo who rose to second his confession, Mbalula said no one did and not even Manuel did.
“Many people were bowing down (as he was speaking) and you could hear the drop of rain. It became quiet. People came after to give me a pat on the back and said ‘you are brave’ and it ended there,” he said.
He said only one person stood up and "rubbished" his claims.
Former president Jacob Zuma did not comment on Mbalula's revelations.
Mbalula also told the commission that he had met after with the Gupats, once at their Saxonwold compound and once at their Sahara offices.
The inquiry continues.IOL