Zuma and Fana contradict Madonsela
President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma and the controversial businessman Fana Hlongwane have written affidavits supporting Ajay Gupta’s claim that Mcebisi Jonas lied about the elder Gupta brother offering him the job of finance minister. But during her state capture investigation, Jonas told then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela that he was taken to a hotel room on October 23 2015 to meet with Hlongwane and Zuma. Afterwards, Jonas said, they took him to a meeting at the Gupta residence in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, where Ajay Gupta allegedly offered him R600 million in exchange for favours, should Jonas become minister of finance.
The first payment, a bag containing R600 000 in cash, was apparently available immediately. Madonsela said in her State of Capture report that she believed Jonas’ version. Cellphone records obtained by the former public protector showed that both Hlongwane and Zuma were in the Saxonwold area on that day.
In Hlongwane and Zuma’s affidavits, they do not dispute the allegation that the meeting was moved to the Gupta residence, but they do not explain how none of the Guptas was present at their own home. They expressly deny that Ajay Gupta was there, though.
All the latest affidavits in the matter were filed in the Pretoria High Court on Friday, in a case in which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is asking the court to declare that he does not have the power to interfere with a decision by banks to close accounts associated with the Guptas.
Madonsela also wrote in her report that the onus was on President Zuma to investigate the allegations. But she said there was no apparent attempt made by the president to investigate the allegations made by Jonas and former ANC member of Parliament Vytjie Mentor, who also said the Guptas had offered her a Cabinet post.
Gordhan said in his heads of argument that the Guptas had continuously bothered him and had “insisted” that he intervene in the banks’ decision to close their accounts. That is why Gordhan approached the courts to confirm that he couldn’t interfere.
However, Ronica Ragavan, acting chief executive officer of the Guptas’ holding company, Oakbay Investments, hit back in her first affidavit in the court battle in January, and said the Guptas did not dispute that Gordhan did not have the power to interfere with the banks’ decision, but that they still opposed his application.
Ragavan also argued that Gordhan was driving a “political campaign” against the Guptas. But according to Gordhan, the Guptas were making the allegations out of the blue, because there had never been any mention of such a campaign in their earlier correspondence with him.
In Ragavan’s latest affidavit, also filed on Friday, she objects to the allegation that the Guptas used R1.3 billion of the Optimum Mine’s rehabilitation trust to make suspicious transactions. The mine was acquired by the Guptas in 2015.
She said the money was merely transferred to an account at the Bank of Baroda and that allegations about its source were “defamatory”.
The case will be heard on March 28 and 29. –