In addition to the need to fund his lifestyle, including a penchant for luxury suits and watches, former Cabinet member Malusi Gigaba faced significant financial pressure from his family and he turned to the Gupta family for help, Gigaba’s estranged wife Norma Mngoma told the Zondo Commission on Friday.
Mngoma returned to the commission after her testimony was cut short on Thursday evening when she was whisked away by police due to a security concern. While the commission did not release further details of the security threat, Mngoma said she had little sleep overnight and the saga had affected her emotionally.
During her first appearance at the commission in April 2021, Mngoma mentioned that the Guptas had helped bail out Gigaba’s sister Nozipho, who was allegedly in debt to the tune of R850,000.
In his affidavit, Gigaba said he helped pay for his sister’s basic expenses during her financial struggles but he said the allegation that the Guptas helped was “scurrilous”.
On Friday, Mngoma said Gigaba’s father had requested him to return to KwaZulu-Natal urgently. Mngoma said she drove to the province with Gigaba and their two kids and Gigaba then went into another room to have a conversation with his father and sister. It’s unclear when the trip took place.
The family drove home to Johannesburg the same day and Mngoma said Gigaba told her that his sister was in R850,000 debt and was blacklisted, which was preventing her from securing a job. A shocked Mngoma asked where they would get the money to help.
“He said he’s going to raise it with Ajay [Gupta],” Mngoma testified.
She followed up on the issue multiple times with her husband and he allegedly told her his legal advisor Siyabonga Mahlangu would help his sister challenge her blacklisting. Mngoma said the Guptas had committed to helping, with an initial payment of R425,000, which Mahlangu was due to collect.
Mahlangu has told the commission he advised Nozipho on her legal options but never assisted her in challenging her status with a credit bureau and never collected the funds from the Guptas.
Gigaba’s sister lived with her brother’s family in Pretoria for a number of months and worked at the Guptas’ Sahara Computers for four months. Mngoma said her husband would regularly give her R20,000 to R30,000 for expenses.
Nozipho is an optometrist and worked at Sahara in marketing, which frustrated her and led to her leaving after only months in the job, Mngoma said. In his affidavit, Gigaba said his sister worked at Sahara but he played no role in securing her the job.
Mngoma has testified that Gigaba regularly visited the Guptas’ Saxonwold home and returned with large amounts of cash. She claimed that some of that cash was used to fund extensions and developments at Gigaba’s late father’s Port Shepstone home. Gigaba has refuted the allegation and said his father paid for the home renovations.
Mngoma told Zondo, “That one is not true. When the house was built, during the time his father was very sick and there was a point where I went to the home to fetch his father to stay with us so that I can be able to take care of him because the sister was not okay as well and Melusi was very busy with work.”
She told Zondo Gigaba’s father was a retired reverend who did not have an income and his son had to help pay his medical expenses. She mentioned a R2,000 medical bill Gigaba allegedly paid for his father.
“It’s very strange to me that someone who can’t pay R2,000 can just build an entire house and also, on top of that, if his father had money to extend the house, why he called us previously to go all the way to KZN to assist his sister to take him out of credit bureau,” said Mngoma.
She maintained that she and Gigaba had seen a cash dispensing machine at the Guptas’ home and that the family funded some of their lavish international trips.
Mngoma has alleged that the Hawks, who arrested her in July 2020 on the charge of malicious damage to property, deleted digital evidence from her devices of how the Guptas funded their lifestyle.
The charges have since been dropped and her arrest deemed an abuse of power.
In his written submission, Gigaba, who began testifying immediately after his wife’s appearance at the commission on Friday, accused Mngoma of having tried to blackmail him for financial gain.
He claimed that she offered not to testify in front of Zondo if he agreed to a favourable divorce agreement that included significant financial compensation.
“This is a lie. The commission’s got nothing to do with our divorce,” said Mngoma.
She claimed that while Gigaba, as a Cabinet member, was able to live on the state’s expense and had only paid for the family’s DSTV subscription, she was used to providing for herself. Gigaba alleged that Mngoma is currently driving a car she was given as compensation for supporting his detractors. Mngoma said she was paying for the car herself.
Gigaba began his testimony shortly before the commission took its lunch break.
When asked about when he first had dealings with the Gupta family, he said, “I did not have dealings. I don’t exactly know what the word ‘dealings’ means because I did not have any business or other dealings. I got to know them and I used to be invited to attend various social and cultural events which I did.”
In afternoon testimony, Gigaba said he first met the Guptas while he was ANC Youth League president and interacted with them at various cultural and social events while he was a Cabinet member. He claimed he “scaled down” his interactions with the family from 2014 due to his busy schedule.
He could not estimate how many times he had visited the family’s home but dismissed Mngoma’s “extensive imagination” after she said he had visited Saxonwold more than 20 times.
Gigaba was public enterprises minister during Transnet’s controversial 1,064 locomotive acquisition programme and evidence leader advocate Anton Myburgh questioned him regarding the at least R3.5-billion the Guptas were alleged to have received in the deal and the hundreds of millions paid to their associate Salim Essa’s companies.
Gigaba maintained that although he appointed board members who had links to the Gupta family, as minister he played no role in the awarding of the contracts.
“I think trying to connect the dots that, that you knew this is appointing the board, you were trying to do something wrong, I think all of us sitting inside here might know somebody who is doing something wrong,” said Gigaba.
Despite his relationship with the Guptas, which was only through certain business, social and cultural events, emphasised Gigaba, he did not know what they might have been up to at the time.
Gigaba is due to return to continue giving evidence at a later date.
Former minister Faith Muthambi began her testimony after Gigaba was excused on Friday afternoon. DM
This article was updated at 6pm to include Malusi Gigaba’s afternoon testimony.