Zondo inquiry conducts inspection of Guptas’ Saxonwold compound
Investigators and evidence leaders for the commission of inquiry into state capture carried out an on-site inspection of the Gupta family’s Saxonwold compound with former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor on Monday morning.
This follows claims by Ajay Gupta that Mentor fabricated her evidence and falsely described the layout, interior and exterior of the property.
Just before 9am on Monday morning, lawyers for both the inquiry and the Guptas arrived at the property for an “in loco” inspection, which was facilitated after protracted negotiations.
The inspection was not open to the media, following objections by attorneys for the Gupta family. They asked that the inspection be videotaped. It is unclear at this stage if and how the evidence about the inspection will be presented to the commission, as its spokesperson has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Mentor recently retracted her evidence to the commission, which is chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, that she had met businessman and former arms deal adviser Fana Hlongwane on a 2010 flight with former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane.
Hlongwane had also been named by former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas as a witness to a Gupta brothers’ attempts to bribe and threaten him into taking the finance minister position.
Mentor’s lawyers now say she admits that she may have been wrong.
“After our client’s appearance before the commission, she decided to view images of [Hlongwane] on the internet. After reflection on those images, she has come to realise that they are not of the person she was introduced to by [Duduzane] on the Emirates flight,” the lawyers wrote.
“Our client persists in her version that she was introduced to a black man by [Duduzane], who referred to him as ‘chairman’.… Our client accordingly wishes to concede that she made an error in identifying the person introduced to her.”
In his application to cross-examine Mentor, which was refused by Zondo, Ajay Gupta maintains that her testimony that he offered her the post of public enterprises minister is a “fiction”, and has suggested that she has been “put up” to give false evidence that implicates him and his brothers.
In his affidavit to the commission, Ajay Gupta denied that she met Jacob Zuma at his family’s Saxonwold home, as she testified.
“Significant cross-examination will be necessary”, Ajay Gupta stated, after pointing out that there were “substantial disputes” between Mentor’s testimony and the Guptas’ response to it. He attached photographs to challenge Mentor’s claims about the geography and appearance of his family’s Saxonwold property.
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 Gupta denies this and says the area is in fact dominated by a grand piano.