State capture: Ex-Transnet executives moved 'bags of cash' from Gupta compound, inquiry hears

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Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe during a meeting with Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts on May 30, 2017. (Gallo Images / Sowetan / Esa Alexander)
Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe during a meeting with Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts on May 30, 2017. (Gallo Images / Sowetan / Esa Alexander)
  • Two drivers of former Transnet executives testified at the state capture inquiry on Thursday. 
  • According to their testimony, bags of cash were regularly transferred between the executives and the Gupta residence at Saxonwold, as well as Gupta associate Salim Essa.
  • One of the drivers said his relationship with Gama ultimately soured, resulting in him being accused of witchcraft. 

Two drivers of former Transnet executives Brian Molefe and Siyabonga Gama on Thursday gave astonishing evidence before the State Capture inquiry regarding clandestine exchanges of bags of cash between the executives and people believed to be Gupta associates.

Both Molefe and Gama previously served as the state-owned entity's chief executives. 

The witnesses, whose identities were hidden, detailed how sports bags and sometimes suitcases filled with wads of cash were were collected from the Gupta compound at the Saxonwold, and also fetched from a man identified as Salim Essa, from an upscale Melrose Arch apartment block.

Witness 1, who was employed as a driver for Molefe, said he had on numerous occasions driven the latter to the Saxonwold residence and to other meetings in hotels north of Johannesburg, as well as the offices of Gupta company Sahara in Midrand, where Molefe sometimes emerged with a light brown leather bag. 

The witness recalled an incident on 18 January 2012 when Molefe ordered him to deliver a bag to the Sahara offices, to someone he described as Ajay Gupta.  On another occasion, Molefe sent the driver to collect his cellphone on the 49th floor at Transnet offices at Carlton Centre. The witness told the inquiry: 

"I was surprised to see the bag filled with bundles of R200 notes."

Upon discovering the cash, he said he informed Molefe that it was risky to carry such large amounts of cash, but an upset Molefe told him that it was none of his business.

The 2011 period saw the busiest runs to the Gupta compound by Molefe, according to the evidence.

'Witnessing dirt'

The witness also told the commission about another visit to the Gupta compound, where Molefe was joined by Gama and then-Transnet Engineering chief executive Thamsanqa Jiyane. He mentioned Jiyane remarked in isiZulu that he was witnessing their dirt.

During that particular visit, Gama came out of the meeting and alerted him while waiting in the car that somebody was going to come to him to hand over something. A bag was later dropped off in the boot of the car, he said.

Gama and Jiyane then proceeded to the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, where the bag was transferred to Jiyane's car.

"When I inspected it I noticed that it was full of cash," he said.

Gama's former driver, whose image was also hidden, told tales of being sent on parcel collections and drop-offs at Melrose Arch from a man he said he later learned was Salim Essa.

"On 13 June 2017, Mr Gama asked me to collect a parcel from from Mr Essa at Melrose apartments."

One such parcel contained a striped plastic bag, which he said he later realised was filled with cash when he transported Gama to his residence.

"I observed him splitting the cash into two. I presume it could have been around R1 million. He later handed me R50 000," he said.

He said he took the cash and assumed that it was a token of appreciation. He told the commission that their working relationship turned sour when he could not take instructions from Gama's associate, resulting in the latter accusing the driver of witchcraft.

The two men said they had received threats based on the statements they have made before the commission.

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