Manuel to tes­tify on Gupta ties to Mbalula

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Karyn Maughan

For­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Trevor Manuel is ex­pected to im­pli­cate Atul Gupta at the state cap­ture in­quiry with tes­ti­mony that sug­gests the mid­dle Gupta brother played a role in the ap­point­ment of Fik­ile Mbalula as min­is­ter.

But on Thurs­day, Mbalula told Busi­ness Day it was not Atul Gupta who ap­peared to have fore­knowl­edge of his 2010 sport min­is­ter ap­point­ment, but rather his brother Ajay.

“It was not Atul who con­grat­u­lated me about get­ting the po­si­tion of sports min­is­ter. It was Ajay. The com­mis­sion has asked me about this, but I haven’t given it a state­ment. I’m not run­ning away from this in­quiry. I’ve an­swered all their ques­tions to the best of my abil­ity and I’m will­ing to tes­tify,” Mbalula said.

The Gup­tas, who have close re­la­tions with for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and his son Duduzane, have come un­der scru­tiny at the Zondo com­mis­sion, where sev­eral wit­nesses have tes­ti­fied about their at­tempts at po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence for com­mer­cial ben­e­fit.

The Gup­tas’ lawyers, mean­while, re­it­er­ated that Atul “has never met Mr Fik­ile Mbalula”, and said Ajay had con­grat­u­lated

Mbalula as a re­sult of “pos­i­tive and pub­lic me­dia spec­u­la­tion” that he would be ap­pointed sport and re­cre­ation min­is­ter.

Manuel, who is ex­pected to tes­tify at the Zondo com­mis­sion on Novem­ber 27, de­tailed in an open let­ter pub­lished by Daily Mav­er­ick in June 2017, how Mbalula had made a tear­ful con­fes­sion to the ANC’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) at a meet­ing in 2011 about his in­ter­ac­tion with Atul Gupta.

The in­flu­ence of the Gupta fam­ily on gov­ern­ment af­fairs was dis­cussed at the meet­ing, where Mbalula re­counted be­ing sum­moned to the Gupta com­pound in Sax­on­wold. Ac­cord­ing to Manuel, Mbalula told the NEC mem­bers Atul Gupta had told him ahead of time he would be ap­pointed min­is­ter of sport and re­cre­ation. At the time, Mbalula was deputy min­is­ter of po­lice.

Mbalula re­it­er­ated to Busi­ness Day that he would not deny what he had said at the ANC NEC meet­ing, “which was wit­nessed by 80 peo­ple, in­clud­ing [then] pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma”.

“I was the first one in the ANC to raise con­cern about the Gup­tas. Mine was a prin­ci­pled state­ment that I made to the ANC as a warn­ing.”

Mbalula said he had met with Ajay Gupta over his state­ment to the meet­ing, as “Ajay said I mis­un­der­stood him”. He would de­tail this meet­ing fully if and when he is called to tes­tify.

It is un­clear whether the Gup­tas will ap­ply to cros­sex­am­ine Manuel, given that they have been re­fused the right to cross-ex­am­ine other wit­nesses un­less they agree to re­turn to SA to give ev­i­dence.

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