Mentor names Kaunda at state capture probe
Jacob Zuma’s former trusted and powerful adviser Lakela Kaunda is being accused of facilitating a meeting between state capture whistle-blower Vytjie Mentor and the Gupta family.
In a statement submitted to the Zondo inquiry into state capture, Mentor for the first time names Kaunda as the person who allegedly called her in 2010 to arrange a meeting with the family at their compound in Saxonwold.
Kaunda, who previously served as the former president’s chief of staff and spokesperson, is contesting Mentor’s claim. She has a legal team representing her at the commission, which kicked off in Johannesburg on Monday, after being informed that she was implicated in the state-capture scandal.
Mentor allegedly claims in her statement to the commission, which is being chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, that Kaunda phoned her to summon her to a meeting. She says she made the trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg in the belief that her meeting was with Zuma.
Kaunda’s legal team intends to submit to the commission that this claim is false as she had neither spoken to Mentor nor arranged the meeting.
Mentor, a former ANC MP, is scheduled to testify before the commission that prior to a cabinet reshuffle in October 2010, members of the Gupta family offered her the position of public enterprises minister on condition that she ensured the cancellation of the India route of SA Airways.
Mentor claimed the meeting took place at the Guptas’ Saxonwold compound and that Zuma was in the next room when the discussion took place.
Mentor made these allegations in 2016 after former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas made a public statement revealing the Guptas offered to promote him to finance minister and offered him a R600m bribe.
In evidence given to former public protector Thuli Madonsela during her state-capture inquiry, Mentor said the meeting with the Guptas was arranged by a staff member in the presidency. Madonsela’s report does not name the staff member.
In an affidavit to the High Court in Pretoria in 2016, Mentor did not identify who called her. The affidavit was filed at the time to oppose Zuma’s bid to prevent the release of Madonsela’s report.
Mentor told Madonsela she was met at OR Tambo International Airport by two unknown men, who drove her first to Sahara Computers and then the Gupta home in Saxonwold.
Mentor said she declined the offer of the cabinet post. According to Madonsela’s report, Zuma then walked into the room.
She stated: "The president was not angry that she declined the offer. He apparently said to her in Zulu, something like ‘it’s okay ntombazane [girl] ... take care of yourself’."
Last year, the Sunday Times reported how the Gupta family tried to do several business deals with Kaunda.
At the time Kaunda acknowledged that she had several meetings with Tony Gupta at the family’s Saxonwold residence but said she was "not engaged in any business relationship with the Gupta family".
"I am not captured," Kaunda said at the time.
A number of legal teams presented themselves before the inquiry on Monday representing those implicated so far. They include teams for the Guptas, Zuma, his son Duduzane, former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown and business person Fana Hlongwane.
Michael Hellens SC, representing Ajay Gupta at the commission, told Zondo he has instructions to act on the allegations made by Mentor and former government spokesperson Themba Maseko. This means he is likely to cross-examine Mentor on her claims.
Zuma’s legal team, headed by Muzi Sikhakhane, is also likely to cross-examine Mentor but informed the judge that they are still waiting for all the documentation on the allegations pertaining to their client.
It is not yet clear if Kaunda’s legal team will also request the opportunity to cross-examine Mentor or will depose an affidavit disputing her claims.