Ajay Gupta is set to file an application for his legal team to cross-examine former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and former ANC MP, Vytjie Mentor, following their testimony at the State Capture Commission of Inquiry.
The Gupta patriarch was implicated by both high-profile whistle-blowers as having been central to meetings in which they were allegedly offered – in exchange for business favours – ministerial posts and in the case of Jonas, also a R600-million bribe.
Former president Jacob Zuma, allegedly present at the Gupta Saxonwold home while Mentor was being propositioned by Ajay Gupta, is yet to decide whether he would bring such an application. His legal team is scheduled to notify the commission of a decision on Friday.
No notice was given in respect of Duduzane Zuma who is already facing criminal charges relating to the meeting he allegedly facilitated between the Guptas and Jonas in 2015.
On Tuesday morning, the judicial commission of inquiry which is examining, among other things, the role of former president Zuma and the Guptas in the alleged unlawful hiring and firing of ministers and directors or board members of state-owned companies, kicked off with a notice about applications by some of the initial implicated parties seeking to cross-examine witnesses or to present a response to allegations against them.
In addition to Ajay, at least four other applications for cross-examination or an opportunity to present an alternative version of events in which they are implicated, are scheduled to be considered by commission chair, Justice Raymond Zondo during the course of this week.
They include one by former Zuma aide, Lakela Kaunda who has been named by Mentor for allegedly having called her to arrange a meeting with Zuma via Gupta brother, Atul,
Kaunda does not seek to cross-examine Mentor. Instead, she has submitted an affidavit containing her response to Mentor’s allegations, one that includes a claim that she never spoke to Mentor in 2010.
Further questioning of Mentor, who is still in the witness stand, may well cause this application by Kaunda to fall by the wayside.
The Commission’s legal team seems set on convincing Justice Zondo to impose conditions on any implicated party who may succeed in the quest to cross-examine witnesses.
Lawyers for controversial arms-deal adviser, Fana Hlongwane, who was put at the scene of Gupta introductions and meetings involving both Jonas and Mentor, submitted a detailed affidavit to the commission on Tuesday morning.
This statement, said senior advocate Vincent Maleka, a member of the commission’s legal team, raises more questions as it “admits to some of the meetings between him (Hlongwane), Duduzane and Mcebisi Jonas”.
Therefore, he said, it was important and “for the pursuit of the truth”, that Hlongwane’s version about the Jonas meeting be tested by the commission.
In terms of the rules of the commission, the chairperson may grant leave to an implicated party to either to give evidence, to call other witnesses or to cross-examine a witness.
But Vincent Maleka said the commission’s legal team would seek to impose conditions on this “privilege” and that cross-examination of a witness should also come with an opportunity to test any other version presented by an implicated party.
One of the other applications filed was that of Hawks anti-corruption head, Major General Zinhle Mnonopi, who allegedly tried to have Jonas sign a pre-prepared statement that would have sabotaged a criminal investigation into the Gupta bribe offer to him. This followed a case opened by the DA.
Meanwhile Vytjie Mentor’s testimony continues today, the early part relating mainly to Zuma’s arrival in a room of the Guptas’ Saxonwold house just as she became “agitated and loud” following Ajay Gupta’s alleged offer that she could replace then Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan whom he told her would be sacked in an upcoming Cabinet reshuffle.
Zuma, she said, did not seem surprised when she told him what had just transpired in the meeting – instead, he tried to “calm” her down and walked her out to her Gupta lift to the airport.
The hearing continues. DM