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Vytjie Mentor breaks silence on ill-health

Vytjie Mentor testifying at the commission of inquiry into state capture. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency/ANA

Vytjie Mentor testifying at the commission of inquiry into state capture. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency/ANA

Published Jun 26, 2022

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Struggle icon and former ANC bigwig Vytjie Mentor is battling with ill-health and is still traumatised by state capture-linked death threats.

Mentor, 58, recently stepped down due to health-related issues, as the Western Cape’s chairperson of her new political home, ActionSA.

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In an interview with Weekend Argus Mentor said her current ailing health was attributed to her weight loss journey.

“I had a bariatric surgery to lose weight because of my injury in my leg I gained a lot of weight, but due to the hard lockdown I could not do follow-up medical inspections on the initial procedure.

“Afterwards, I found that there was a little bit of candidiasis which grew over time and spread throughout the entire system,” she said.

Candidiasis is an infection caused by a yeast (a type of fungus) called Candida.

“When they do the surgery, they no longer do an intrusive surgery internally, they pull your insides out and do it outside. So the chances of getting infections are huge. I was ailing so much as the problem was spreading throughout the system,” she said.

Mentor further said that as provincial chair, the party had made a determination that it must build more ward-based branches in an attempt to contest in the national elections in 2024.

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“That involves a lot of travelling, monitoring and physical ground work, so with my ailing circumstances, I’m not able to do that, so I said let me step down cause I don’t want to be unfair to myself and the party. They should appoint someone who is able to do the physical work,” she said.

Mentor in previous years made headlines when she alleged that former president Jacob Zuma had made inappropriate sexual advances towards her while he was still deputy president.

She rejected his advances twice, once while she was a younger ANC member in the early 1990s, and when she was the chairperson of the ANC caucus in the mid-2000s.

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Mentor also made news when she blew the whistle on alleged corruption. She publicly claimed that the Gupta family had offered her a post as public enterprises minister.

Mentor testified about this before the State Capture Commission, but the inquiry’s fifth and final report noted that the allegations could not be corroborated.

The politician told Weekend Argus that she still lives in fear.

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“To be a whistle-blower comes with a lot of responsibilities. I have had a lot of attempts on my life. Four times they tried to terminate my life,” she said.

Mentor also said she spent a lot of money to secure her safety.

“For the longest time I constantly had to upgrade the security at my home,” she said.

Mentor said she also still had nightmares.

“I was supposed to travel to Johannesburg for an assignment. I had to attend the killers of Babita Deokaran’s first court appearance.”

Deokaran was an anti-corruption whistle-blower who was assassinated in August after she was returning home from dropping her daughter off at school.

“The night before I had to embark on my trip, I had a dream that after I left the court the perpetrators who killed Babita shot me while I was driving to the airport.

“That dream felt so real that when I woke up I was soaked. My pyjamas were seeped with sweat. I had palpitations, a fast heartbeat that was not going down, irrespective of me drinking lots of water.

“I could not travel, so I cancelled the trip. From time to time I get these flashbacks of the attempts on my life because I exposed corruption,” she said.

Mentor said she had to consult with a psychologist.

“I had to see someone to calm me down and to give me medication,” she said.

Mentor said if she has to blow the whistle again, she would. She is now fighting back to get better.

“I’m not on my deathbed. I’m just concentrating on myself and on my health. I want to be in the best shape by 2024,” she said.

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