South Africa

Days of Zondo

Meandos aside, Duduzane and Jonas agree on three key facts

Archive Photo: Mcebisi Jonas testifies at the state capture commission of inquiry on 24 August 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Former president Jacob Zuma is going to be dragged deeper into the centre of state capture rot as three witnesses who will appear before the Zondo commission will implicate him in lobbying for Gupta companies to receive government business. (Photo by Gallo Images / Netwerk 24 / Deaan Vivier)

A 60-minute effort to dent Mcebisi Jonas’s Gupta bribe allegations during cross examination at the State Capture Commission was put to bed in under 10 minutes when the former deputy finance minister’s senior counsel, Wim Trengove, brought the meandos back to the basics.

Wim Trengrove, senior counsel for former deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas argued that the clashing versions of Jonas and Zuma junior about the controversial October 23 2015 meeting – the one at which a Gupta brother allegedly offered Jonas the post of finance minister in exchange for R600-m – remain “very narrow” and that:

  • It is common cause they met at the Hyatt;
  • It is common cause that they later drove to the Guptas’ Saxonwold mansion; and
  • It is common cause that there was a Gupta brother in the mix.

The only difference is what actually happened during that meeting.

And that, said Trengove, is the one thing that was not mentioned by Duduzane Zuma’s senior counsel, Piet Louw, during cross examination on Friday morning.

Jonas previously testified that one of the Gupta brothers, in the presence of Duduzane, allegedly offered him an upfront cash payment of R600 000 and the R600-million to follow in exchange for getting rid of the top tier of officials at National Treasury.

Duduzane’s version is that the whole purpose and topic of the meeting in Saxonwold was that a mutual friend, controversial businessman, Fana Hlongwane, had tried to blackmail Jonas.

Bizarrely, Duduzane, whom Jonas had never meet until that October, was now installed to mediate between the two “old friends”.

Jonas told the Commission Hlongwane had never blackmailed him and neither had he ever accused the businessman of doing so.

Jonas maintained that if there were blackmail rumours he could have resolved this directly with Hlongwane through a mere phone call.

Trengove, in his re-examination of Jonas after a rather tense cross examination session, said “they want us to believe that the only purpose (of the meeting) was around the blackmail rumours”.

This was supposedly why Hlongwane had “asked” Jonas to meet with Duduzane.

Hlongwane, who had successfully applied for leave to cross examine Jonas, made no appearance on Friday morning.

The Commission heard that several notices confirming the date for cross examination, had not been responded to by either Hlongwane or his legal representatives.

And, as it turns out, Duduzane is not quite on the same page as the Guptas on this meeting at Saxonwold.

Trengove reminded the Commission that the Guptas issued a media statement shortly after Jonas went public about the bribe claim in 2016.

They said that Jonas had lied and that “to be absolutely clear, there was no meeting at all,” Trengove said in wrapping up his brief retort to the cross examination.

Kicking off cross examination earlier in the day, advocate Louw for Duduzane, said the veracity of Jonas’ bribe claims must be investigated as they formed the “genesis” of the Public Protector’s State of Capture report and informed the terms of reference of the State Capture Commission.

Louw drilled down into among other things, why Jonas’s version of the meeting and the bribe tale before the Zondo commission differs against what he originally said in a statement to the Public Protector.

Jonas said this was because 2015 was a different time, that his response to the PP then had been done in a rush and some of the information had been lumped together painting an inaccurate picture of the events he had attempted to describe.

Louw grilled Jonas several times about some of those differences that included him having spoken to Duduzane several times in the run-up to the October 23 meeting and that Duduzane had first spoken to him about an invitation to attend the Guptas’ South African of the Year ceremony.

Louw pushed Jonas on why he would have agreed to meet Duduzane without knowing what the purpose was, that he would have agreed to move their meeting to un unspecified “private” location nearby and that he would have gone there in Duduzane’s car instead of his own – without really knowing why.

Jonas had earlier testified that Duduzane had told him there were some people he needed to meet.

He admitted that he drove to Saxonwold with Duduzane, leaving his own official car and his security personnel behind.

He said this was not all that odd as Duduzane’s car was closer at the time.

Louw said there was no dispute that Jonas went there in Duduzane’s car, but that what was in dispute, was Jonas’s motive for having gone with him.

Did you ask what the purpose of the meeting was?” Jonas said he had not.

Another aspect of Jonas’s testimony that came under intense scrutiny was around the conduct of senior Hawks officials who had allegedly tried to shut down the Gupta bribe investigation.

Louw asked Jonas about the lengthy time lapse between the date of the alleged bribe offer (October 2015) and him going public on it in March 2016.

Apart from former finance ministers, Pravin Gordhan, and Nhlanhla Nene, Jonas said he had told no one about this until then.

The situation at the time was very hostile, I hardly trusted the police, the Hawks and intelligence,” Jonas said.

Louw then tackled him on a sequence of events and why Jonas had failed to report a very serious bribe allegation to law enforcement authorities and had not cooperated with the Hawks in their effort to obtain a statement from him once it surfaced in public – those included discussions between Jonas and former Hawks boss, Berning Ntlemeza and Major General Zintle Mononopi

Jonas testified that he did not trust the Hawks at the time and told the Commission that when Mononopi allegedly first contacted him to arrange a meeting she allegedly told him: “Listen, I just want to close the matter. And I need a statement from you.”

Mononopi was also initially granted leave to cross examine Jonas but the Commission was told this application has since been withdrawn.

Wrapping up his re-examination, Trengove reminded the Commission that Ntlemeza’s appointment as head of the Hawks was set aside last year. A full bench of the High Court in Pretoria, following an application by Freedom Under law and the Helen Suzman Foundation, had reviewed and set aside Ntlemeza’s appointment on the basis that he was not fit and proper.

Ntlemeza, said Trengove, was in fact behind the “disastrous” attempt to prosecute former finance minister, Pravin Gordhan.

*The Commission resumes on Monday when the Denel leg of the inquiry kicks off. DM


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