OUTSPOKEN former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor has explained how shocked she was when one of the Gupta brothers promised her a ministerial job if she assisted the family’s business interests.
Mentor took the stand yesterday as the third witness of the commission of inquiry into state capture, currently under way in Parktown, Joburg.
The commission heard how the Gupta brothers were confident about their power over former president Jacob Zuma, which allegedly allowed them to tell him who to hire and fire.
Mentor said she was astonished when the eldest brother, Ajay Gupta, told her in 2010 at their Saxonwold compound that there were plans to fire then public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan and that she could be recommended for the job.
“What particularly stands out for me was the discussion of him having the capacity to make me a minister.
“The fact that he knew that then president (Zuma) wanted to reshuffle at the time there was no inkling whatsoever in the media that I knew of there was going to be a reshuffle.
“I asked him how this would happen that I become a minister. He said he could put in a word for me with the president.
“When I expressed shock (over the offer), he said ‘we normally do’,” Mentor said.
She said Ajay told her that she would have to cancel the South African Airways’ route between Joburg and Mumbai, India, to allow a Gupta-linked airline to take over the route.
“He said they are in partnership with Jet Airways that would see to it that goods and cargo continues. He talked about SAA’s turnaround strategy, that it was not working and that it was not yielding results,” Mentor said.
Her testimony, which continues today, comes after former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas told the commission that Ajay had also offered him the post of finance minister.
According to Mentor, the Gupta brother also asked if she could assist the family in terms of the uranium deposits in the Northern Cape which they wanted to procure for the nuclear build programme.
Mentor said she rejected the ministerial offer, resulting in the appointment of Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to the post after Hogan was fired by Zuma.
“Subsequent to me declining the offer (and), with minister Barbara Hogan being reshuffled, as Ajay told me in Saxonwold, the minister that was appointed in that position was Gigaba. Under his watch, that same route was cancelled and Jet Airways became active in the route as suggested to me in Saxonwold,” she said.
Advocate Vincent Maleka revealed at the commission yesterday that those implicated by Mentor and Jonas - including Zuma’s former adviser Lakela Kaunda - had lodged applications to cross-examine the two. Mentor said it was Kaunda who called her in 2010 to meet Zuma and the Guptas, allegations Kaunda is denying.
The commission’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, said all those who wanted to cross-examine witnesses would have to be prepared to take the witness stand and also be cross-examined themselves. Mentor continues testimony today.