State capture: 5 Mentor claims Zuma has denied

Here are the five allegations the former president denied during his second day of testimony at the commission on Tuesday.

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

JOHANNESBURG – Former President Jacob Zuma has denied nearly all of former African National Congress Member of Parliament Vytjie Mentor’s testimony at the Zondo commission related to him trying to recruit her as a minister through his corruption-accused friends, the Guptas.

Mentor’s credibility as a witness came under scrutiny in February after most of her testimony about her state visit to China in 2010 and her description of the Gupta family’s controversial compound in Saxonwold could not be corroborated by the commission’s investigators.

She had to retract her statement implicating businessperson Fana Hlongwane after testifying in August 2018 that Zuma’s son, Duduzane, introduced her to a man he referred to as “chairman” on an Emirates flight to Dubai in 2010.

After seeing pictures of Hlongwane on the internet, she admitted she identified the wrong man. Mentor said that she confused Hlongwane’s name with Brian Hlongwa, the former Gauteng MEC for health.

Her claims that one of the Gupta brothers, Atul, was present during the China trip were also discredited after travel documents obtained from the Department of Home Affairs and Department of Trade and Industry showed that Atul was in the country during the period of the trip.

Here are the six of Mentor's points Zuma denied during his second day of testimony at the commission on Tuesday:

1. Gupta ministerial job offer

Zuma flatly denied being part of a plot to recruit Mentor as public enterprises minister, saying he had no interaction with the former parliamentarian.

“No, I had no interaction with this witness [Mentor]. Nothing,” he said.

This led to Mentor's claim that the Guptas seemed to be involved in or had knowledge of imminent Cabinet reshuffles.

The commission’s evidence leader Advocate Paul Pretorius said Ajay Gupta appeared to have known about a Cabinet reshuffle in October 2010, in which Babara Hogan was fired as minister of public enterprises and replaced by Malusi Gigaba, Zuma denied sharing this information with the Guptas.

“Ajay Gupta was not part of government. He was not even part of the people who normally get consulted [on Cabinet shuffles]”.

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He added: “He shouldn't have known. He was not part of government”.

The former president said before any decision could be made to change the Cabinet, he consulted with the ANC’s top six leadership.

“I consult very selected people. I always consult,” Zuma said. “At no stage, could I do the reshuffle without people knowing who is supposed to know. For example, the ANC top six, as well as the alliance are consulted…Those are the people I consult with. So, I wouldn’t be the only one who knows, there would also be other people who know.”

2. Zuma Meeting Mentor

Zuma admitted to previously meeting Mentor after having stated in a press statement released by the Presidency in March 2016 that he didn’t know her. This followed Mentor’s claims about the ministerial job allegedly offered to her by one of the Gupta brothers at their Saxonwold compound where Zuma was apparently present in the same house.

The former statesman said he only remembered Mentor when he saw her picture.

“When I was asked about her from the beginning I couldn’t have any recollection. When I saw her afterwards, I remembered her,” Zuma said.

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He also said Mentor “exaggerated” her claim before the commission that she always sat next to Zuma in Parliament and that the former president introduced her to the ANC parliamentary caucus.

“It’s not the job of the president to introduce her in Parliament,” he said.

In a Facebook post during Zuma's testimony, Mentor reacted saying: “Zuma now recalls who I am. He even says he knows me! But he has flatly denied recalling anything that has been put to him regarding my evidence.”

3. Meeting Zuma at Gupta compound

Zuma also denied Mentor’s claims that he was present at the Gupta compound when the ministerial job was offered. To her claims that the former president attempted to calm her down because she was agitated that the Guptas offered her the job, Zuma said he couldn't remember.

“No recollection at all… Not at all,” he said.

4. China state visit August in 2010

Asked if he recalled any state visit where the Guptas paid a prominent role, Zuma said he had no recollection of the trip.

“I’ve gone to China several times, I think I would need to check my records. I might not recall it,” he said.

When asked if he could recall any state visit to China where the Guptas were ever-present, Zuma said the Guptas couldn’t have been involved in any state visit.

“No. They don't participate in the state visit activities”.

Mentor alleged she was removed from her position in 2010 as the chairperson of Parliament’s public enterprises portfolio committee because she refused to meet with Zuma on the China state visit. Zuma said he was in the dark on the issue.

“I know nothing about it,” he said.

5. Meeting Lakela Kaunda

Mentor had previously testified before the commission that Zuma’s former chief of staff Lakela Kaunda called her to arrange a meeting between her and the president. The former ANC parliamentarian had told the commission she thought Kaunda was the president’s assistant at the time.

“Kaunda had nothing to do with that. There were other officials who were dealing with those kinds of things, not Kaunda,” Zuma said.

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