Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor defied the ANC-led investigations into state capture by taking her dossier – detailing allegations of the existence of a corrupt relationship between the Gupta family and President Jacob Zuma – directly to the Hawks.
Mentor’s claims are contained in two sets of affidavits handed to the elite police unit in May and June.
This week Hawks head, Major-General Mthandazo Ntlemeza, confirmed to City Press that they were investigating a corruption-related case against the brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh (also known as Tony) Gupta.
However, on being approached by City Press about her submissions to the police, Mentor emphatically refused to respond, saying she did not wish to discuss the case in the media.
Those named as having been involved in the alleged wrongdoing in her documents, seen by City Press, include Zuma as well as Cabinet ministers Lynne Brown, Rob Davies and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
According to the statement made before Western Cape top cop Major-General Jeremy Veary, Mentor wrote: “I am of the conclusion that the Gupta family, the son of the president (Duduzane Zuma), and some ministers I have named in this statement – as well as the president, to a certain extent – all have [a] corrupt relationship that gives unfair advantage to the Gupta family and their associates at the expense of the state, using state resources and agencies all the way for their own benefit.”
Mentor states that, while she was working in Parliament between 2004 and 2009, the Gupta brothers had approached the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and secured a loan to establish a company that would partner with aerospace conglomerate Denel.
“The amount borrowed was R300 million ... The Guptas were supposed to service the loan amount immediately.”
However, according to Mentor’s statement, this did not happen. As a result, “R300 million became R350 million that the Gupta brothers owed the IDC. They used the money to buy Oakbay Investments, which gave birth to Shiva Uranium and VR Laser,” she wrote in her statement.
Mentor’s allegations appear to be confusing the IDC loan that was made to Oakbay Resources for Shiva, and not for the Denel partnership, which was only made at the end of 2015.
Mentor further alleges that, instead of paying the IDC, the Guptas made a deal with the state entity to forego the loan in exchange for a minority shareholder stake at one of the Gupta companies.
IDC spokesperson Mandla Mpangase disputed the figures, saying: “The original loan was an amount of R250 million, which accrued R256 million in interest ... [and] was specifically for the acquisition of Shiva Uranium mine. To date, R167.5 million (of the R250 million) has been paid to the IDC.”
Mpangase went on to say that the IDC “did not convert the original debt of R250 million that remains secured in the assets of the company”.
“However, we agreed to convert R256 million (of the accrued interest) into a 3.75% shareholding in Oakbay Energy Resources, based on an independent valuation of the company at the time.
“It is also important that we re-emphasise that our investment decisions were based purely on commercial [considerations],” Mpangase said.
Mentor also states that Shiva Uranium was “strategically placed to supply uranium to the government for a nuclear power plant that was still to be built”.
The Guptas told her that, through Shiva, they would “show the government how to build a nuclear plant, to which they would supply uranium”.
The brothers also told her she could “help them acquire contracts to supply Eskom with coal”.
In a wide-ranging interview with City Press this week, Ntlemeza said: “The investigation is moving very smoothly. I have combined complaints by the DA, the Congress of the People (Cope) and Mrs Mentor, and appointed a team of investigators.
“Shaun Abrahams (the National Prosecuting Authority head) gave the Hawks a prosecutor for guidance.”
He added that the deadline targeted for the investigation to be completed was December.
Asked whether it was not career limiting to investigate the friends of the president, who appointed the police minister who then appointed him, Ntlemeza said: “When I am investigating a case, I stick to my mandate, which is to serve without fear, favour or prejudice, no matter whose friend is involved. To me it is immaterial.”
Mentor states in her documents that she got to know the details because she had held several positions, including that of chairperson of Parliament’s caucus, as well as of the joint standing committee on intelligence, of the rules committee and of public enterprises.
She also argued that under Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, the corrupt partnerships between Denel, VR Laser, Oakbay as well as Shiva Uranium were cemented.
“Under her, Denel Asia was formed with VR Laser, but Denel carries the capital and financial burden for that venture. The main profiteer at that company is the Gupta family.”
Brown’s spokesperson Colin Cruywagen said the minister “welcomes any investigation that will bring an end to all these false accusations. However, she also reserves her right to take action.”
Mentor’s documents were unclear as to what Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies was alleged to have done wrong.
Mentor also detailed how, as early as 1994, the Guptas allegedly approached the ANC requesting to be introduced to then president Nelson Mandela and his then deputy, Thabo Mbeki.
“They (the Guptas) requested to be introduced to the leadership of [the] ANC and the government in Luthuli House,” the affidavit reads, adding that “they specifically wanted to meet [then] president Mandela, [then] deputy [president] Mbeki and [then minister] Essop Pahad. They were willing to donate R50 000 towards the ANC’s election [campaign].
“They eventually managed to meet with [then] minister Pahad in Luthuli House and they did donate R50 000,” she wrote.
Mentor stated that Pahad still had a relationship with the Guptas and was responsible for the content of their journal, called The Thinker.
“He (Pahad) was responsible for putting a Gupta brother [on] the board of the Brand SA government entity/agency,” the statement reveals.
This is now a matter of public record.
The affidavit also details how, after struggling to secure a meeting with President Jacob Zuma, Mentor was called by the Guptas.
“I struggled for two months to arrange a meeting with the president. I went to Tuynhuys (the president’s Cape Town office) with a letter requesting a meeting. I followed protocol in arranging the meeting. I also phoned Ms Lakela Kaunda (the presidency’s chief operations officer) at Luthuli House,” she said.
Mentor states that one Sunday evening after 10pm “on my official phone”, Kaunda called, saying a person would call her regarding setting up a meeting with the president. A man then phoned and made travel arrangements for Mentor to fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
“I was worried because I was on crutches and asked the man how I [would] travel. He assured me that my flight was already booked and transport [was] sorted out,” she wrote.
She arrived in Johannesburg and “two men dressed in black and dark glasses with ear-pieces”, driving a black vehicle ferried her. She thought she was being taken to the Union Buildings, but she was instead taken to Sahara Computers in Midrand.
She met one of the Gupta brothers, who spoke to her about her family and children. “I told him my son [was] playing cricket for Western Province. He then offered to buy a cricket bat, but I told him I [had] already bought my son a new cricket bat made of English wood.”
Mentor revealed in the affidavit that “he then hinted that the president was not available yet, because he [was] at that stage [attending] a meeting at Luthuli House. I became agitated and impatient because it was strange that this man [knew] about my visit and [seemed] to know the whereabouts of the president.”
After spending 45 minutes at Sahara, Mentor states that she thought they would be going straight to the Union Buildings for her meeting with the president.
Instead, they drove to a cluster mansion with big houses. It was a private complex. “After a while, the big brother [Ajay Gupta] arrived.” According to Mentor, he said that, as the chairperson of public enterprises, she was probably aware that Denel had been having legal problems in India. “I pretended to be aware, because I wanted to know more about this man.
“He also touched on my agenda with the president. I was very surprised and angry. He told me they [the Guptas] are very close to the Indian government.
“He spoke about the SAA ... route between South Africa and India. He wanted me to commit myself to making a deal that [would] influence [the] SAA to stop flying between [South Africa] and India. He also said [I] could be minister of public enterprises in [a] week’s time, when [Zuma] reshuffles Cabinet and removes [minister of public enterprises] Barbara Hogan.”
“Asked how, the Gupta brother said he would put in a word with the president to appoint me. I was doubtful and he could see it. So he said that they [had] done it previously [and] I must just play along, meaning I must agree to influence SAA to stop the route.
“I requested in a loud voice to be taken back to the airport. At [that] time the president entered. When he walked in I stood up on my crutches to show him respect. The president remained standing and shook my hand, but this guy remained sitting and did not show respect to the president.
“Instead, as we [were] still exchanging pleasantries and greetings with the president, he interjected and offered the president food in a demeaning tone. This got me very angry. The president rejected the food offer, saying he would go and eat next door where his son lived,” she wrote.
Mentor said she told the president of what had transpired, but he remained calm and tried to calm her as well. “He was fatherly and apologised for all that I had been put through,” said Mentor.
The Gupta family have repeatedly and publicly denied these allegations. Atul Gupta was last week approached for comment, but did not respond to SMS messages and phone calls. Gupta family spokesperson Gary Naidoo also failed to respond to a list of questions at the time going to press. Despite undertaking to respond, the presidency has not replied to City Press’ enquiries.