Days of Zondo
Denials, evasions, and incredulity as Anoj Singh takes the stand at State Capture Commission
Denials and evasions were the order of the day as Anoj Singh, who has been repeatedly named as being involved in industrial scale looting as chief financial officer at Transnet and Eskom on behalf of the Gupta cartel, appeared before the commission of inquiry into State Capture on Friday.
There were a number of moments of incredulity from both Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and evidence leader advocate Anton Myburgh SC as Anoj Singh, in the face of damning evidence, claimed he was being framed by someone within the commission.
Singh testified at the commission on Friday morning and was presented with evidence from a close protection officer, assigned as a driver and bodyguard for him during his tenure as Transnet CFO.
Singh was in the acting CFO position at Transnet from 2009 until he was appointed CFO in July 2012, a position he held until he was seconded to Eskom on 1 August 2015. Brian Molefe was group chief executive at Transnet while Singh was CFO. Singh was then seconded as CFO to Eskom just two months after Molefe was moved there as the new group CEO.
Singh said he studied the affidavits deposed by his former bodyguard, known as Witness Three, and found it “not very credible and spurious in nature”.
Among the allegations contained in Witness Three’s affidavits were that he had driven Singh to the Gupta compound in Saxonwold on about 10 occasions. Singh then normally spent about 20 minutes to half an hour in the Gupta residence, before emerging with a sports bag which Witness Three believed was stuffed with cash, because he had seen such a bag filled with R100 and R200 notes when Singh once bought them lunch and had taken money from the bag, which was in the boot of the car.
He stated he also drove Singh to Knox Vaults in Killarney on six or seven occasions. Singh would go into the building with a bag full and emerge with it visibly empty.
Singh denied all these allegations, but admitted he personally rented “four to five” safety deposit boxes at Knox Vaults in order to secure the safety of personal items such as jewellery and important documents.
Asked by Myburgh why he needed so many safety deposit boxes, he said there was one for each family member. His rental of the safety deposit boxes stretched from about 2013 to “2016/2017ish”, a period coinciding with his position at Transnet and then Eskom until he was suspended in 2017.
When the alignment of these periods were pointed out, Singh explained his suspension meant he no longer had a salary with which to rent the safety deposit boxes, and it also coincided with his ex-wife and family members moving to Durban and no longer needing the safety deposit boxes.
Singh had to be pressed by Myburgh to give a rental figure for the safety deposit boxes: “The cost is relative given the reason for having the boxes is security…” He then gave an estimate of R2,500 a year each.
“Not per month?” inquired Myburgh.
“I don’t recall, I’m estimating,” Singh responded.
He denied that Witness Three ever drove him to Knox Vaults, saying he went there once or twice a month, and when he did so he used his own car as he was conducting personal business.
“Witness Three did not ever take me to Knox Vault.”
Under questioning he said he never told Witness Three about the existence of his deposit boxes at Knox Vaults, as he was a private person and would not have disclosed such private information to his driver and security escort.
This led Myburgh to ask how Witness Three could then have introduced the matter of the safety deposit boxes in his testimony.
“I am just as startled as you about this allegation,” said Singh.
Justice Zondo responded: “You see how it looks, I mean, he [Witness Three] comes up with his version which you say is a fabrication, it includes going to the Gupta residence, those visits, and it includes him saying on certain occasions he would take you to Knox Vaults. Now I assume there are a number of businesses which do the same business as Knox Vault… and it so happens on your version that you don’t visit Knox Vault regularly, once a month in your estimate which, on your version it must be such a coincidence.”
To which Singh responded: “My view emanates from issue raised from the commission, I had occasion to read in the media that the commission had taken the position or in some way, shape or form got information relating to the fact that individuals implicated in State Capture had boxes at Knox Vaults and the person in question had legal issues with the commission and therefore there were legal outcomes associated therefore, so again Mr Chair the issue of Knox Vaults and Witness Three as it relates to myself could have only emanated from the commission itself vis-a-vis those issues that existed within the commission and the knowledge that the commission had relative to the individuals that had boxes at Knox Vaults.”
Justice Zondo then sought clarity that Singh was saying somebody in the commission instructed Witness Three to frame him because they were aware “somebody else” had kept deposit boxes at Knox Vaults.
Singh confirmed that was his assertion.
Myburgh then informed the commission he had just received a WhatsApp from the investigator saying that it was Witness Three who told them about the deposit boxes at Knox Vaults.
He also asked Singh about the personal cash of up to R100,000 Singh had previously mentioned he kept in the deposit box.
Singh said the money came from business, some gambling proceeds and financial consulting work.
“Moonlighting?” queried Myburgh.
“While you were chief financial officer at Transnet?”
To which Singh replied the consulting work was before and after he was CFO, although Myburgh pointed out he rented the deposit boxes during the period he worked as CFO at Transnet and Eskom.
“I cannot comment on that,” said Singh.
Singh also denied Witness Three’s statement that men of “Asian descent” delivered a black and a maroon luggage bag to the Three Rivers Lodge conference centre in Vereeniging at the end of a week-long breakaway in July 2014.
Witness Three stated one of the bags was picked up by Molefe’s driver, while Singh asked him to collect the maroon bag from inside the venue. A week later, when he was checking there were no valuables in Singh’s car before taking it to the carwash, he discovered the bag contained cash.
Singh said he only met Gupta dealmaker Salim Essa on “probably one or two occasions” because Essa wanted to discuss business opportunities with Transnet that Singh did not follow up on. One of these occasions was at an “outside venue”, possibly Melrose Arch.
However, before the commission on Thursday, former Transnet Freight Rail chief executive Siyabonga Gama said one of the occasions he saw Essa was in Singh’s Transnet office in the Carlton Centre in the Johannesburg CBD.
Singh continued his testimony on the stand on Friday afternoon.DM