[FIRST ON EWN] Vytjie Mentor backtracks on state capture testimony

The former ANC MP has apologised to Gupta-linked businessman Fana Hlongwane for implicating him at the state capture inquiry.

Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor gives testimony in the state capture commission of inquiry on 27 August 2018.  Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor has backtracked on what she told the state capture commission under oath about her first encounter with Gupta-linked businessman Fana Hlongwane.

Mentor has now apologised to Hlongwane for implicating him at the state capture inquiry.

Eyewitness News has seen a letter Mentor’s lawyers have written to the commission this week in which she says she erroneously referred to Hlongwane as the man Duduzane Zuma introduced him to on a flight to Dubai in 2010.

In August Mentor testified at the inquiry and described how the president’s son approached her while en route to China and introduced her to two members of the Gupta family and the controversial businessman.

In an extraordinary admission to the commission, Mentor’s lawyers detail how it was only after testifying before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and mentioning Hlongwane’s name that she decided to look up his image on the internet.

They say after much reflection, Mentor has realised that, in fact, it wasn’t Hlongwane that Duduzane Zuma introduced her to.

Mentor has now asked for forgiveness from Hlongwane for any embarrassment this has caused.

She adds she’s also willing to go back on record before the commission and publicly apologise.

It would seem this move by Mentor is meant to save her further embarrassment as Hlongwane prepares to cross-examine her to dispute some of the facts she presented.

The cross-examination was meant to start on Thursday but has been postponed to 30 November.

Eyewitness News spoke to Mentor on the phone and she confirmed she will apologise to Hlongwane.

“I still maintain Duduzane introduced me to a man, but after I was on the stand, it bothered me that I made an error in my book and at the commission.”

She says after her appearance at the commision, she went and googled Hlongwane.

“When I saw images of him on internet, I realised it’s not the man Duduzane Zuma introduced me to, the man I was introduced to is taller than Fana, and he has broad shoulders.”

Mentor says she is now working on tracking the person Zuma introduced her to.

“I know he was sitting behind me, I will find him I know how to find him, I know he has sat on two other boards.”

“He is an ex-Robben Islander, I know how to locate him, I don’t worry much.”

On Thursday the commission of inquiry’s legal counsel revealed that it’s started investigating Mentor’s testimony - and will have the results of that probe weeks’ time.

Zondo also said it’s important that issues that arose from Mentor’s evidence be properly investigated, saying her evidence could have serious consequences if it was found to be false or even true.