Alet Janse van Rensburg

Vytjie Mentor, Essop Pahad and the light green Camry

2017-09-07 09:21
Vytjie Mentor (Netwerk24)

Vytjie Mentor (Netwerk24)

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Vytjie Mentor first met Jacob Zuma in 1991 in Durban at the ANC’s first electoral conference to be held on South African soil.

She was the young mother of a 3 month old baby and ducked out of one of the sessions early to go tend to her daughter who was being taken care of at the nursery.

As she walked out the venue she saw an older man sitting in the back of a light green Toyota Camry. His bodyman told her the man wanted to meet her, so she walked closer and he rolled down his window.

The man was Jacob Zuma, who asked her where she was from and when he heard Kimberley, asked if she could help him get his hands on some diamonds.

It ended up being a meeting that would influence her later life in inconceivable ways.

“I told him to talk to De Beers,” she says with a chuckle. “It just goes to show that he has always been trying to make a quick buck.”

Mentor is talking to an audience of about 50 people at The Fugard Theatre at the Cape Town launch of her book, No Holy Cows. She self-published the book after at least one publisher declined due to fears for possible libel claims. The book already made headlines in July for its allegations that Zuma tried to sexually assault Mentor on two occasions.

“I hope they go to court to sue me, I’ve been hoping for that. Because there will be a lot of revelations,” she says in all earnestness.

The book gives new insight into the character of the president and sheds light on a time that has been described as the genesis of state capture.

And while Mentor’s credibility has in the past been called into question on several of the controversial claims she’s made, it is striking with how much detail she recalls her first encounter with the Guptas, when they allegedly offered her a Cabinet position in 2010: From the hallway at Sahara Computers in Johannesburg where she was made to sit and wait, to the massive pillars, large murals and golden taps in the Saxonwold compound where the meeting took place – it all seems too good to make up.

Most striking is her memory of how Zuma entered the room after she had already had words with one of the Gupta brothers – she, leaping to her feet out of respect for the head of state, he remaining seated and unfazed. The president had appeared out of nowhere when it became clear Mentor would not play along.

“It was as if he was listening in another room. He told me not to worry, everything would be fine and helped me to the car,” she says.

It seemed that from their previous encounters, Zuma had mistakenly thought Mentor, at that stage chairperson of the ANC caucus, was up for sale. The president denies the meeting took place and said in an official response that he has no recollection of Mentor.

Looking back Mentor is convinced former minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad is the ‘missing link’ in the establishment of the corrupt relationship between Zuma and the Gupta-family.

She tells with similar detailed memory how a close friend and ANC MP told her that in 1994 they were approached by the Guptas while going door-to-door in Bedfordview to encourage people to get their ID’s in time for the upcoming election. The brothers wanted a meeting with President Nelson Mandela and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki in return for R50 000 towards the ANC’s election campaign.

Mbeki refused the meeting with him and Mandela, but Mentor claims Pahad volunteered to go.

Shortly thereafter, in 1996, Pahad was the first minister to appoint a member of the Gupta family, Ajay, on the International Marketing Council and the board of Proudly South Africa.

Pahad recently told media that he only met the Guptas in 1996 while on a state visit with Mbeki.

Fast forward a decade and Mentor is looking for a new political home. She’s convinced the ANC will split after 2019, possibly even in three.

 “I became an ANC MP because Kgalema Motlanthe, who was ANC secretary-general at the time, said MPs were only asking sweetheart questions and he needed MPs who were willing to hold the executive to account. I accepted the job because I wanted to make a difference.”

Unfortunately for her, things have changed.

“The ANC isn’t salvageable. It will never clean up its mess,” the veteran politician says.

“I have been praying for an opposition coalition government and I can only think of one instance where I didn’t get what I prayed for… A coalition government is the only thing that can save us now.”  

- Janse van Rensburg is opinions editor at News24.

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Read more on:    vytjie mentor  |  zuma  |  jacob  |  essop pahad  |  state capture  |  gupta brothers

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