Duduzane Zuma has gainsaid the Gupta family in a spectacular fashion.
Appearing before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Monday, Zuma said that brother Rajesh “Tony” Gupta made an appearance at the family’s Saxonwold mansion when former Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas was offered the job of finance minister in return for the offer of a R600-million long-term bribe and an immediate cash offer of R600,000.00.
The Gupta family has consistently denied that the meeting happened and they put out a statement from the family holding company Oakbay at the time. Zuma has denied the bribe offer but not the meeting on 23 October 2015 which is a key date in South Africa’s story of State Capture being probed by the Commission. Two months later incumbent Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was axed by Duduzane’s father. The admission of Tony Gupta’s appearance is at once a crucial admission and contradiction.
Political facilitator extraordinaire
As the political facilitator for the Gupta family, the appearance of Duduzane Zuma, the 35-year-old son of former president Jacob Zuma on Monday, 7 October is the closest that the Commission of Inquiry of State Capture has got to the heart of the sore of grand corruption – the family at the centre.
On Monday, Zuma started his appearance before commission chairperson Judge Raymond Zondo in relation to six instances in which his name has been raised as a facilitator of, agent for and lieutenant of State Capture.
The six instances relate to:
– Mcebisi Jonas’s testimony that the Gupta family offered him R600-million to become finance minister and tilt economic policy to their interests;
– his alleged interference with former Mineral Resources minister Ngoako Ramathlodi on behalf of the Guptas and their acquisition of a mine. Former Ramathlodi adviser Advocate Sam Muofhe also testified to Zuma’s role as meeting requests were channelled through him;
– the Estina dairy farm matter where Gupta family won a dairy project which soured;
– his alleged facilitation of a meeting between former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Johann Booysen and the Guptas where the cop was offered the job of national Hawks head; and
– his ownership of Infinity Media which was a major stakeholder in ANN7, the now-defunct TV station that was at the centre of State Capture propaganda.
A voluntary appearance
Zuma made a voluntary appearance before the State Capture Commission on Monday with a seven all-male, all-white team of lawyers and advocates which included the fire power of BDK Attorneys, regarded as the top criminal defence firm in the country.
Immaculately kitted out and drinking from personal bottles of water (not those provided by the commission), Zuma arrived with a lawyer’s bag of his own containing the files of evidence he had to keep referring to as the commission began the process of informal questioning to take his testimony to weigh up the evidence against him.
With his trademark Mohican haircut, Zuma was charming – he flashed grins at the cameras flashing at him; he addressed Zondo and evidence leader for the commission, Advocate Phillip Mokoena, as “Sir” throughout with calm and precision.
His style was the polar opposite of his father’s appearance in July when the former head of state narrated long and repeated conspiracies and refused to answer most questions before he torpedoed proceedings.
J-day – 23 October 2015
Duduzane Zuma’s opening testimony on Monday concerned the 23 October 2015 meeting with Jonas which he had facilitated and which is a crucial date in the history of South African State Capture being probed by the commission.
On that day, Zuma met Jonas at the Hyatt and drove him to the Gupta mansion in Saxonwold where ANC fixer and arms deal bribe accused Fana Hlongwane met them. Jonas told the commission that he had not known where he was being taken to and he said that he may have got the name of the brother who offered him the job wrong. The three brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – are often confused.
Mokoena probed why the meeting was held at the Gupta home (if not to facilitate them making the bribe offer). He asked Zuma why it was not held at his home, which was a stone’s throw from the Gupta estate and would have been the logical venue to provide privacy.
“I’ve conducted many meetings from the Gupta residence. My residence was a private residence and I have never conducted meetings there,” said Zuma. Later, asked to answer if he was sure that Rajesh Gupta had “peeked” in on the meeting (in relation to the family’s statement denying a meeting had even taken place) he said he knew “the lay of the land of the house” and that he knew the details better than the people who had crafted the Oakbay press statement.
Zuma said the meeting was called to discuss a rumour that Hlongwane had raised. By the lunch break Zuma had not gotten into the meat of the rumour and Mokoena did not push it. He, however, specifically denied that a bribe was offered to Jonas.
Everything was not so cool
Asked what his prognosis was about the meeting, Zuma said it had been “cool” although he told Zondo that Jonas had called him afterwards in consternation.
“He called me afterwards to give me a mouthful and said I should not conduct myself that way. Whether issues were resolved or not, when we emerged from that meeting, it was all cool,” Zuma told Judge Zondo.
The October meeting began to turn the tide on State Capture because Jonas then began to take members of the ANC into his confidence and to share what had happened to him, the commission has heard. It was the most audacious attempt at capture by the Gupta family.
Mokoena recounted Jonas’s testimony and told Zuma that perhaps things were not so “cool” as the then deputy minister had been shocked by the venality of the Saxonwold meeting as his testimony last year revealed.
“You have already answered that with you, everything was cool. (But) you had other avenues you could have explored (as) these were important allegations (against you),” Mokoena told Zuma. He continued.
“Did you open any criminal charge against him (Jonas)?
“No, I did not, Sir.”
“Did you bring a defamation action?”
“No, Sir, I did not.”
Mokoena put a final question to Zuma about the October meeting.
“We know as a matter of fact that two months after that meeting, (then Finance Minister Nhlanhla) Mr Nene was removed. Was this a coincidence?
To which Zuma answered:
“I believe so.” DM
"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule; not to bewail; not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." ~ Baruch Spinoza