Early State Capture whistle-blower Vytjie Mentor dies following prolonged battle with illness
The former ANC MP who became one of the first people to blow the whistle on State Capture in South Africa, passed away on Tuesday morning, aged 58.
“It is with sadness that I mourn the loss of a comrade like Vytjie who was the first, as far as I’m concerned, to make a statement about State Capture after calling me all those years ago to put evidence on paper.”
This was according to former Western Cape detective head, Jeremy Vearey who spoke to Daily Maverick after hearing of former ANC MP and State Capture whistleblower Vytjie Mentor’s death on Tuesday. Vearey had a close rapport with Mentor, ever since she specifically requested he take her detailed statement of allegations about the Gupta family and former president Jacob Zuma, way back in May 2016.
Mentor’s death was announced in a statement by ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba on Tuesday morning, 23 August. She had found a home in the party two years ago, after earlier quitting her role as ANC MP.
“ActionSA has just learned of the passing of Vytjie Mentor and extends its most heartfelt condolences to the Mentor family for their loss. Vytjie had been ill for some time, and this morning her family called to inform us that she had succumbed to her illness after being hospitalised for several months,” Mashaba said.
“It should not be forgotten that Vytjie Mentor was the first to sound the alarm on what we today call ‘State Capture’. She was a true patriot who served her country even in the face of criticism.”
We extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and ActionSA family of Vytjie Mentor.
Vytjie played a central role in launching and growing ActionSA in the Western Cape. Her legacy will be long remembered.
Rest In Peace, Vytjie.https://t.co/I3T1rTjOMG
— ActionSA (@Action4SA) August 23, 2022
Mentor served as an ANC member of the National Assembly between 2002 and 2014, and as the party’s caucus chairperson between 2004 and 2008. She also served as chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises.
After resigning from the ANC, she party-hopped — first joining the African Christian Democratic Party (ADCP) in March 2019, before announcing that she would join Mashaba’s ActionSA the next year. She was appointed as ActionSA’s Western Cape chairperson in October 2020.
In June 2022, Mashaba announced that Mentor had stepped down as provincial chairperson to assume a new role within the organisation, because of ill health.
Mentor is also the author of the self-published book titled, No Holy Cows, which details the most salient parts of her political career between 2002 and 2017. Both an activist and politician, she started her political career as an executive mayoral committee member in the Northern Cape.
Mentor’s public State Capture journey began after she made allegations on Facebook while on holiday in Thailand in March 2016, that the Gupta family had offered to make her the minister of public enterprises, if she agreed to assist with furthering their business interests.
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In May 2016, Mentor provided police with a detailed statement of allegations about former president Jacob Zuma, his son Duduzane, the Guptas and some members of the Cabinet.
Daily Maverick’s Marianne Thamm reported that upon entering the charge office in Durbanville, Mentor specifically requested that then deputy Western Cape provincial commissioner for detective services, Major-General Jeremy Vearey, take her statement.
Mentor spent nearly 24 hours writing her statement, first by hand, Daily Maverick reported.
Recalling the moment when Mentor first contacted him to request that he take her statement, Vearey told Daily Maverick on Tuesday, after hearing of her death: “I arranged with her that I would handle the matter, and sent two of my detectives, whom I trusted, to sit with her throughout the night.
“The vital information that she gave led to the identification of other roleplayers,” he added. “It is also the case that brought me squarely into the hostile eyes of the then National Police Commissioner, Khomotso Phahlane.”
Vearey added that Mentor had “played a seminal role” in exposing some of the State Capture crimes.
“That is what I remember her for, and respect her for.”
The task of exposing corruption and capture among senior government officials coupled with the constant risks to her security, Vearey said “has taken a great toll on her health and on her family”.
Mentor gave her evidence to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and was later cross-examined in February 2019, after some parts of her testimony were found to be inconsistent. However, Mentor defended her testimony.
In August 2018, before the Zondo Commission, Mentor testified that upon travelling to Johannesburg for a meeting with former president Jacob Zuma in October 2010, she was instead taken to the Gupta’s Saxonwold home where she was offered the gig as minister of public enterprises, if she assisted with influencing the South African Airways cancellation of the India route.
Mentor declined the offer and said that Zuma was in the next room when the Guptas had made the offer.
Mentor has been lauded for her courage in blowing the whistle on corruption. On Tuesday, the Defend Our Democracy campaign expressed its sadness over her death and applauded her “in reporting corruption and capture.”
Mentor has been described as a “larger-than-life figure, a fighter, fearless, brave, outspoken, but sometimes inappropriate or too quick to temper and accuse,” as reported by Daily Maverick’s Marianne Thamm.
The news of Mentor’s death comes on the anniversary of Gauteng health department official Babita Deokaran’s murder. Deokaran was shot multiple times on 23 August 2021 outside her home in Winchester Hills, Johannesburg.
Deokaran’s family and the State believe she was silenced for blowing the whistle on corruption within the health department.
We applaud her courage in reporting corruption and capture and appeal to govt to strengthen policy and laws on the protection of whistleblowers. pic.twitter.com/53VZmgL1v9
— Defend Our Democracy (@ForDemocracySa) August 23, 2022