Ever wanted to see the Gupta compound? Here it is
This is the bizarre 'evidence' Ajay Gupta submitted to Zondo that Mentor 'lied'
Photographs of a grand piano covered with a fitted red cloth, snaps of steps and pictures of their guest toilet (without a golden door handle) – this is part of the evidence family patriarch Ajay Gupta submitted to the State Capture inquiry to discredit ex ANC MP Vytjie Mentor.
The grainy pictures of the inside and outside of the Gupta family’s Saxonwold home are attached to an affidavit Ajay Gupta filed to Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who heads up the commission of inquiry into State Capture.
This 42-page affidavit, obtained by Times Select, was filed alongside the Guptas’ application to testify via video link instead of travelling to South Africa. Ajay Gupta attached the pictures in an apparent bid to show how Mentor lied about her meeting with them, where he allegedly offered her the position of public enterprises minister.
Zondo dismissed the Gupta family’s application to cross-examine Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor and former government communications head Themba Maseko – on the basis that they refused to return to South Africa to give their evidence.
But, through a series of affidavits filed by the Guptas as part of their bid to secure the right to cross-examine Jonas, Maseko and Mentor, we now have some insight into their side of the state capture story – even if that story may not carry any weight with the commission.
Ajay Gupta denies ever meeting with Jonas, who claims a Gupta brother tried to bribe and threaten him into taking on the finance minister post and doing the family’s bidding.
He completely denies ever meeting Mentor, and describes her claims that he offered her the position of Public Enterprises minister as a “fiction”. Finally, he admits meeting and phoning Maseko, but denies ever doing so to bully him into channelling R600m in government advertising to the family’s media organisations.
While the inquiry’s lawyers slammed Ajay’s affidavits as containing nothing but “bald denials”, the documents submitted to Zondo do contain a number of very specific claims.
In the 42-page affidavit that carries the pictures, Ajay disputes several claims Mentor made in her testimony:
• He denies offering her the job of Public Enterprises minister, saying his family never had an interest in Jet Airlines, which Mentor claims was the basis for Ajay offering her the post. He was responding to Mentor’s evidence, where she said: “If I agree to facilitate that SAA doesn’t fly that route [Johannesburg to Mumbai] anymore, then I could become the minister of Public Enterprises … I asked him: how so?”
Ajay says: “Neither I nor any of the entities in which I have an interest ever had a partnership with an airline, let alone one that could take over the South Africa-India route.”
Mentor claimed Ajay Gupta then told her former president Jacob Zuma would reshuffle his cabinet, including then minister Barbara Hogan. Ajay denies he ever said this, or had any knowledge of such a reshuffle.
• He denies she met Zuma at his family’s Saxonwold home, as she testified, and attached photographs of the notorious compound to his affidavit to contest her description of the house.
While Mentor described the house’s steps as “cream marble”, Ajay says they are black granite. He denies her evidence that there is a “giant pillar” in the home’s reception area “or any pillar at all”.
While Mentor says there were two couches in the reception area, Ajay denies this, and says the area is in fact dominated by a grand piano. Ajay further denies there was a ladies’ and gents’ toilet, as claimed by Mentor, or that it had “gold handles”.
• Ajay says her evidence that she was offered mutton curry during her alleged 2010 meeting with him, during which she says he offered her the post of minister of Public Enterprises, cannot be true. “We are of the Hindu religion and maintain a strictly vegetarian diet. It is anathema to suggest that meat of any form, let alone in the form of chopped up sheep, would be allowed to enter our home, let alone enter our kitchen and form part of a meal prepared and served in our home,” he states.
• He denies her evidence before the commission that he wears a “pointing finger” ring.
• He also shoots down Mentor’s claims that his brothers arrived to pick her up from OR Tambo International Airport, carrying a placard with her name on it and wearing dark glasses. “In fact, neither my brother, Atul, who was the chairman of our group of companies at the time nor my brother Rajesh have ever undertaken the basic function of fetching people from the airport, let alone brandishing a placard bearing the name of any person, nor did they wear telecommunications earpieces … together with dark glasses and suits such as which security people wear,” he said.
• He further denies the family had ever owned a black twin cab bakkie, the vehicle that Mentor claims the brothers fetched her with.
“Significant cross-examination will be necessary,” Ajay states, after pointing out that there were “substantial disputes” between Mentor’s testimony and the Guptas’ response to it.
Ajay does, however, admit he and his brother Rajesh “attended the events forming part” of Zuma’s state visit to China in 2010. Mentor has testified that the brothers appeared to be integrally involved in arrangements for that visit and tried to pick her up from her hotel to take her to see Zuma. But Ajay says this is untrue, and – using Zuma’s own programme for that trip – has argued Mentor’s timeline of events makes no sense and cannot be true.
“We did so, together with other delegates from our group of companies … My team’s business meetings were arranged by the consulting company Cadiz and were not part of the state visit programme.”
Ajay also confirms Zuma’s son Duduzane attended the state visit “on behalf of his company Mabangela”.
But he denies Mentor’s evidence that Duduzane introduced his brother Rajesh, as well as controversial arms deal adviser Fana Hlongwane, to her on a flight to China. He’s also disputed her testimony that Duduzane had dreadlocks at the time that this disputed engagement took place.
He also disputes that the Guptas were, or claimed to be, part of Zuma’s “advance team” to China, or were in any way involved in his security or logistics arrangements.
“We were businessmen taking part in the state visit for the same purpose as all other businessmen who were taking part in the state visit”.
It has also emerged for the first time that Ajay Gupta had filed a supplementary affidavit a day before Zondo dismissed their application.
“I have no reluctance whatsoever, and am in fact very keen, to participate in the proceedings before the commission. The whole issue of state capture seems to be very much focused on me and the companies with which I am associated,” he said.
“Without my participation in the functioning of the commission would, in my respectful view, be severely hampered. I, in particular, have very pertinent information to impart to the commission under oath, an upon which I am prepared to be cross-examined.”
In his affidavit dealing with Maseko, Ajay also denies trying to bully him into channelling government’s R600m advertising budget to Gupta media companies.
“I deny that I claimed to be able to discipline any government official who failed to carry out my demands,” he states, adding he knew “nothing of and was not involved in [the event that it took place] any phone call made by then President Jacob Zuma to Mr Maseko on the day he came to see me at Saxonwold.”
Maseko testified that Zuma asked him, during that call, to “help” the Guptas.
Ajay says he did meet Maseko, but the purpose of the meeting was “to get clarity on the policies and practices of the GCIS in the awarding of [government] advertising”.
He denies that he threatened Maseko during a subsequent phone call, and says he was merely trying to arrange for the “New Age team” to meet with him.
“I deny that I gave Mr Maseko any cause to be offended.”