“I cannot go and hand myself to a man that’s got a reputation with women on a silver platter, driven by strange people,” Mentor testified.
She is the third witness to testify at the commission of inquiry into state capture which is currently underway Parktown, Johannesburg.
Mentor detailed her controversial trip to China in August 2010 that was paid for by Transnet.
She was later investigated for abuse of authority as she was chair of the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises at the time. However, it was found that there had been no wrongdoing.
Mentor said while she was at a hotel room, one of the Gupta brothers called and insisted that Zuma wanted to meet with her before proceeding to the state banquet that was planned. However, she could not recall which of the Gupta brothers had made the call.
“At first, he was boastful and spoke with confidence on his role and importance in the state visit, and as I stood my ground that I was not going with, he became aggressive and he said he was going to call the president and tell him that I am refusing.”
Despite another call from the Gupta brother, Mentor said she refused to leave the hotel with him, raising concerns about her safety in a foreign country.
The former ANC MP said the visit also surprised her as she had tried on several occasions to meet with Zuma over the country’s pebble bed nuclear reactor project.
“I had tried to see the president on home soil, so it was strange and discomforting that I would be invited to see the president on foreign soil,” she testified.
Mentor had first explained to the commission that Transnet had booked her a first-class ticket to China on Emirates via Dubai.
Discrepancies in book, evidence
She said on board the flight, it was Duduzane Zuma who introduced her to Rajesh Gupta, businessman Fana Hlongwane and another unknown man of Indian descent.
Mentor said Rajesh told her during the introduction that one of his brothers was already in China as part of the advance team in charge of logistics.
“I actually did not know what an advance team is and it was explained [that] it’s a team that goes ahead for security and logistics and he said it to me with pride,” she said.
However, discrepancies in her book and her evidence-in-chief submitted to the commission were raised by advocate Mahlape Sello, who is leading Mentor’s evidence on behalf of the commission.
In her book, titled No Holy Cows , she refers to the businessman as Brian Hlongwa but during the commission she said she “made a mistake” and it was in fact Fana Hlongwane.
She gave a rather confusing explanation for her “mistake” but insisted she meant Hlongwane instead of Hlongwa.
Guptas in charge
She also said that after initial meetings with the Gupta brothers, she made an effort to distinguish the identity of the brothers.
“One had a ring and also there was difference in obesity,” she said.
Mentor also told the commission how the Gupta brothers were in charge at official ceremonies during the state visit.
“In the meeting room where the Minister of Trade and Industry Dr Rob Davies opened the proceedings, he handed over to the person I came to know for sure as a Gupta brother. They were milling all over, they were in charge, so to speak,” she said.
Mentor testified that the Gupta brothers were given tags that other officials did not have, which “officialised them” and gave them more weight than others.
She also said that she received a “cold and hostile” reception from ministers Davies and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. DM
"Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge - fitter to bruise than polish." ~ Anne Bradstreet