JOHANNESBURG - Marble stairs, bathrooms with a gold finish, exquisite mirrors and a chef greeted former African National Congress (ANC) parliamentarian Vytjie Mentor after she was taken inside the Gupta compound in Saxonwold eight years ago, where she was offered a promotion to become public enterprises minister.
Mentor told the commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday, that she was taken to the Saxonwold mansion from the Gupta family's Sahara Computers company. She had landed at OR Tambo International Airport earlier that Monday in 2010 a few weeks after she returned from China.
Former president Jacob Zuma's aide Lakela Kaunda had called her the previous day and told her that the meeting she had long awaited for with Zuma would happen the following day. Mentor said Lakela told her that a man was going to call her about arrangements for the meeting.
"Lakela Kaunda gave me Atul's number, who was the man I would be dealing with regarding meeting logistics. At that time I was on crutches and was assured that everything would be taken care of for my travel, and that I need not worry as Atul would attend to my concerns," she told the commission.
She was then driven to Sahara Computers' building from the airport where she met Ajay. Mentor said she was told the meeting with Zuma would take place at another venue, but did not know it was at the Gupta compound.
"When I arrived at the gates, we found two security guards. The vehicle drove in and was led to the steps leading into the house. There were several other houses inside the yard, but the one I was taken into was the biggest of them...like a mansion. Inside there were a lot of artwork, two couches and a coffee table, and I sat on one. There was this huge window, and I remembered that because I liked it and saw that it brought it a lot of sunshine," she told the commission.
"The house looked like it was a work in progress because for a house that big size, it was sparsely furnished, with [the] reception area having two couches and a table. I tried to figure out whether the artwork was wallpaper or proper work by an artist."
Rajesh Gupta disappeared into the house on arrival.
Atul joined her and told her that Ajay, whom she had a chat with about her family earlier at Sahara,was still at Sahara and would join them soon. She then asked to use a bathroom and was led to one. Mentor said she could not help it but notice the beautiful gold detail.
''I took a particular like for the beautiful bathrooms and wondered if that was real gold. The mirrors were also exquisite, I like French mirrors and I took a liking for the ones in the bathroom. I also saw some expensive hand lotions.''
When she returned to her seat, a a young man came to greet her, and was introduced as the chef, she said.
''I took exception to the fact that the young man wanted to bow and greet me. I told him to stand...I do not believe, personally, in having people kneel or bow before others.cHe could not speak English, so the chef spoke through Atul. It was around lunchtime, and I was asked what I wanted to have and I said mutton curry and chai tea,'' said Mentor.
She did not like the Indian-styled mutton curry, and preferred the Malaysian version, she said. She said she ''picked'' at the food but disliked it, along with the chai tea.
Ajay then arrived and said to her: ''We meet again.''
She said she wondered when she would meet Zuma as she did not want to miss her flight.
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African News Agency (ANA)