The protagonists of the alleged state capture plot have thrown down the gauntlet on one of the inquiry’s key witnesses.
In four sets of affidavits deposed by Ajay Gupta, Rajesh Gupta and Duduzane Zuma as first, second and third respondents, and one filed separately by Fana Hlongwane for leave to cross-examine former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, it is clear they all believe Jonas lied in his testimony.
Jonas said one of the Gupta brothers offered him the position of finance minister and money in a meeting with former president Jacob Zuma’s son and Hlongwane at their Saxonwold home on October 23, 2015.
At former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s inquiry, Jonas alleged that Ajay was the brother who made him the offer. However, at the Judge Raymond Zondo inquiry, Jonas said he was now not sure which brother it was.
He also, for the first time, alluded to threats that were allegedly made to him by one of the Guptas if he dared speak about the meeting.
Zondo had already ruled that applicants can cross-examine witnesses, but made it clear that the cross-examination can only happen in South Africa, not through a video conference from Dubai where the Guptas are said to be.
In Ajay’s affidavit he “categorically” denied meeting Jonas, saying he had been at the Oakbay offices in Sandton at the time, adding that then Oakbay chief executive Ronica Ragavan could back him up.
Ajay accused Jonas of being induced by pictures and leading questions to implicate him. “He (Jonas) later in an application in the high court by the then finance minister (Pravin) Gordhan against Oakbay without any qualification and/or hesitation in fact confirmed under oath that he met me and nobody else.
“However, in his latest statement dated August 8, 2018, Jonas says he is still unsure with whom he has met as he did not know the Gupta brothers and has never been introduced to them before”
Rajesh, the youngest of the brothers, also denied meeting Jonas. He backed Ajay’s alibi, but said he didn’t know exactly where his elder brother was at the time.
Zuma, who was alleged to have initiated the now infamous encounter, declared under oath: “I point out that I have already been arrested on July 9, 2018, (the only person thus far), and I am currently charged and stand trial in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court, with reference to the subject matter of the above claimed allegations by Mr Jonas, in his various statement(s) and version(s) to date.”
“Hlongwane is an ‘uncle’ to me, with whom I have a very close historical relationship Rumours allegedly claimed Mr Hlongwane blackmailed him (Jonas) these rumours were regarded as very serious”.
Zuma said the meeting moved from a Rosebank hotel to a more private place(the Gupta residence). This is where all the applicants swear under oath that Atul and Ajay were not present and Rajesh (Tony) only “quickly peeped” into the lounge where the meeting was held.
While Hlongwane is demanding his right to cross-examine, he bemoaned the fact that Jonas’s “false allegations” have very serious consequences for him and will further impugn his reputation and dignity.
The Sunday Independent