Former Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi takes the stand at the state capture commission. Photo: Dimpho Maja/ African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - Duduzane Zuma, an associate and business partner of the fugitive Gupta family, tried for months on end to have the Guptas meet with former minerals minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, the state capture commission of inquiry heard on Wednesday.

Ramatlhodi testified that when he was appointed minerals minister by former president Jacob Zuma in 2014, he received many congratulatory phone calls from many people wishing him well. 

The well-wishers included Zuma's son Duduzane.

''He said he wanted to congratulate me in person. It was a very a difficult time for the [mining] industry at the time so I didn't have time to entertain anyone...so I kept on pushing back and pushing back...''

He said he knew Duduzane as a youngster from the earlier years when he was in exile. 

As part of an ANC team supporting Zuma during his corruption trial in Pietemaritzburg, Ramatlhodi grew closer to Duduzane and his twin sister Duduzile as they frequented the court in support of their father. 

Ramatlhodi said Duduzane had kept insisting that they meet. Six months into his Cabinet appointment, the two met on the sidelines of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting regularly held at St George's Hotel in Irene, Pretoria.

"He said to me it was a pity we were meeting under the circumstances, and then went on to say that there was a rumour from at least two sources that I was badmouthing him and his business associates, the Guptas, and that I said they were involved in crime. He mentioned Ajay Gupta," Ramatlhodi said.

"I told him -- Duduzane, you are as good as being my son...why would I run around telling people that you are committing a crime? I would not even tell your father...I would summon you yourself and ask you why you are involved in crime. He said to me he has informed his father already...I said well, I will tell your father what I just told you."

Duduzane then went on to suggest that Ramatlhodi meet with Ajay and explain himself. The former minister said he refused.

"I told him I am not gonna meet with Ajay Gupta...I owe him nothing, I haven't badmouthed anyone so am not going to see him. My own reflection was that they [Guptas] had been trying to meet with me for a long time," Ramatlhodi said.

Another attempt was made through Ramatlhodi's adviser, Sam Muofhe. The request was denied, said Ramatlhodi.

As months went on. Ramatlhodi said he later received a "desperate call" from Duduzane on a Friday, demanding to see him.

"I told him I would meet him on Monday. It was not a friendly call, so I had to exercise some caution. I asked the department's officials what would prompt this boy [Duduzane] to want to see me so much. They showed me pictures of people working without protective clothes at a Gupta mine...I think it was Uranium mine."

Duduzane wanted to meet with the former minister over the events at the Uranium mine. 

Ramatlhodi added that the department had the power to suspend operations under the Minerals Act if there was no compliance. He then decided to go see the former president at the Union Building over Duduzane's persistence. 

"I said Mr president, I am, as the minister of minerals, a court of appeal. No one comes straight to me such as your son. Please tell him to contact officials to stop calling me," said Ramatlhodi.

Ramatlhodi said Zuma replied in Zulu and said: "It's okay my friend".

Ramatlhodi said he never heard from Duduzane again. 

Zuma removed Ramatlhodi from minerals resources to public service and administration in 2015 during a late night Cabinet reshuffle. 

Mosebenzi Zwane, an MEC from the Free State and a Gupta favourite, was appointed minerals minister.

* Read more on the #StateCaptureInquiry here .

African News Agency (ANA)