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Gupta curry, rumours, Zuma’s inaction – Mbalula’s testimony in quotes

Fikile Mbalula testified about his relationship with the controversial family and an August 2011 meeting of the ANC’s NEC where he raised concerns about the Guptas' influence.

A screengrab of ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula at the Zondo Commission on 22 March 2019.

JOHANNESBURG – African National Congress (ANC) elections head Fikile Mbalula on Friday appeared before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture to give his testimony.

Mbalula, who was a cabinet minister in then-President Jacob Zuma’s administration, testified on his relationship with the controversial Gupta family and an August 2011 meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) where he raised concerns about the family having access to confidential government information, such as the appointment of cabinet ministers.

Here are the seven quotes from Mbalula’s testimony:

1. Conflicting testimonies to commission and Public Protector:

Mbalula told the commission on Friday that he didn’t first hear about his appointment as minister of sports and recreation in October 2010 from Ajay Gupta, the oldest Gupta brother. He said Gupta merely called him to congratulate him on his appointment before Mbalula himself knew about the promotion from Zuma.

But in October 2016, he told former public protector Thuli Madonsela in an interview that Zuma told him about his appointment as minister, but didn't divulge details about Gupta's call.

Mbalula said during his testimony at the Zondo commission, he told an ANC NEC meeting in 2011 the Guptas knew about his appointment before he did. This created a discrepancy in his testimony on Friday, and what he told the public protector in 2016.

“I was never offered a position by the Guptas because when somebody offers you a position you get called, and then you get to discuss and get given an offer…. So, it never came that way to me, in the form of an offer. It was a congratulatory note from somebody who would have known that I was going to be the minister of sports,” he said on Friday.

“Now here I came and somebody calls me [Ajay Gupta] and says congratulations for being appointed minister of sports. I told that matter to the [ANC] national executive committee to share part of my experience to say to the NEC that this thing of the Guptas and them interfering, calling ministers and so on, it is a big problem - one day this thing will lead us in a big crisis.”

2. Gupta curry:

“They offered me some curry there before we could talk. I think it is their culture before you talk to them, you eat curry. So, this thing in the public that you eat curry there, it’s not a joke it’s true, they give you curry. Then he [Ajay Gupta] gave me a good lecture about all the things that they eat are from their farm in Midrand. Everything they eat is not from the shops they produce [food] from their farm. I didn’t even know that they had a farm.

“So, that's what we discussed at his house… [I] had a vegetarian curry I don’t like but I had to eat it, but that curry never finished me. I stood firm.”

3. Treated differently after speaking out at NEC meeting:

“I felt comfortable by doing it inside the party because if I raised it in a rally, first it would be an act of cowardice. And politically unprincipled and opportunist, masquerading as a revolutionary. I thought I must raise it whatever the consequences, which I suffered a lot after that.

“I was attacked and chased left and right because I took a stand that this is not on. Whatever the consequences I was able to raise it in my party and which was what we had been taught… to have the courage to raise issues no matter how difficult inside the party.”

4. Zuma on Gupta complaints at NEC meeting:

“No, he did not [react to the complaints]. I don’t recall what the secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, said, but he did say something. But I can’t recall exactly what he said. There was an NEC member that I recall vividly and I will never forget because he rubbished what I said.”

5. No relationship with the Guptas:

“I have had a personal encounter with the Gupta [family], in relation to the appointment of ministers where I received a call from Mr Ajay Gupta [who] congratulated me before I was even appointed as a minister. And I didn’t know that I was going to be a minister because I’ve had discussions with the president about my problems I had in the ministry of police with the then-minister of police. In that, the president told me to hold on and that there will be changes that would be coming in government.”

6. Guptas’ access to confidential information:

“And I said [at the NEC meeting] these people enjoy the powers even not ordinary members of the ANC enjoy. We ourselves when we get appointed to become cabinet ministers, we don’t even know whether you will be a minister - you are just called either midnight or midday but the announcements are always made at night. So, you don’t know what you will be up to until that moment you are told by the president that you will be a minister of this and that.

7. NEC members scared to front Gupta allegations:

“I raised the issue to the NEC and people were spreading rumours and gossiping about it [the Guptas' influence], So I raised it in the NEC and the top six was there.”

“I think in the NEC the majority are cabinet ministers or deputies. It would have been difficult for them to stand up in relation to the Guptas.”

WATCH: Mbalula: ANC NEC was quiet when I brought up Ajay Gupta

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