Analysis: Ajay had the swagger, the Hawks did the mopping up
Testimony at the State Capture Inquiry has painted a picture of entrenched Gupta pressure, access to key information and the use of police to clean up the mess
The Guptas were in the know about everything that moved in government, brother Ajay was the guy with the swagger and the threats, and the Hawks were there to do the mop-up operation.These are the common threads in the testimony of the three material witnesses at the state capture commission of inquiry so far.
Although former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor and former Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) CEO Themba Maseko had different interactions over different times with the Guptas, there are commonalities in their evidence that reveal how the state capture operation was executed.
Jonas, Mentor and Maseko all interacted with the family patriarch, Ajay Gupta, who bragged about the power and influence of his family, and who made audacious demands on them.
All three were also stunned by the type of government information Ajay had access to.
Evidence leader advocate Vincent Maleka told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the inquiry commissioner, on Wednesday afternoon that the commission's legal team would argue that there was a “pattern of behaviour from the Hawks” in dealing with the state capture cases.
This was after Maseko related how the police unit presented him with an “unwelcome distraction” earlier this year as he was preparing to appear before the commission.Maseko met with members of the unit thinking they wanted to see him in relation to the case against Ajay and former president Jacob Zuma. He had earlier given the Hawks an affidavit regarding an attempt by the Gupta brother to strong-arm him into directing government funds to the family’s media companies.
Maseko has alleged that Zuma called him to instruct him to help the Guptas.
Instead of discussing this case, the Hawks ambushed Maseko about his alleged involvement in the granting of an IT contract in 2005 when he was director-general of the Department of Public Works.
Maseko said that when this story was published by the Sunday Times in July, he was contacted by Hawks head General Godfrey Lebeya who was befuddled by the news of the investigation by his unit. Maseko said Lebeya told him he had checked the police computer records and found no trace of such an investigation.
Prior to this, Maseko and his lawyer Tyrone Maseko had tried to find out from the Hawks about the progress of this investigation but received no information.
Maseko said that some months before, he had been given the impression that the Hawks were intending to charge Ajay Gupta and Zuma in connection with his matter.
“They later said that my matter was no longer being followed through ... it’s no longer happening, I should relax,” Maseko said.
‘Threat to kill’
Meanwhile, in her testimony, which concluded on Wednesday, Mentor said she had been asked by a member of the Hawks' anti-corruption unit, Captain Mandla Mtolo, to remove Zuma’s name from her sworn statement as he said her incrimination of the former president in her complaint had held up the investigation.
Mentor attempted to lay charges against the Guptas and Zuma in connection with an alleged offer of the post of public enterprises minister — a job she was offered on condition that she followed Ajay’s order to close the South African Airways’ Mumbai route. This investigation was also not pursued.On Friday, Jonas testified about the being presented with a false statement by a senior member of the Hawks in order to “kill” the investigation into his matter. This related to the alleged offer by a Gupta brother to make him finance minister, as well as an alleged R600m bribe. Jonas said the family member threatened to kill him if he revealed their discussion.
Maseko is set to tell the commission on Thursday about the details of his conversation with Gupta. He testified on Wednesday that the approach by the Gupta family was “inappropriate”."They were asking me to break the laws of the land," Maseko said.
He said Gupta also “threatened” him that he would be “dealt with” if he did not follow his orders.
Maseko said he was reluctant to meet with Gupta because of the family’s “untoward” behaviour and “the way they used their connections to extract contracts and tenders from government and SOEs”.
The inquiry continues on Thursday.