I had no interaction with Vytjie Mentor, Jacob Zuma tells inquiry
The former president also denies that Ajay Gupta would have known about plans to reshuffle his cabinet, as he ‘was not part of government’
Former president Jacob Zuma has denied having “any interaction” with former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, who previously testified at the state capture inquiry that the Gupta family offered her the job of public enterprises minister.
“I had no interaction with this witness — nothing,” Zuma told the inquiry on Tuesday afternoon.
He also denied that Ajay Gupta would have known about plans to reshuffle his cabinet, as he “was not part of government”.
In response to questions from inquiry chair deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, Zuma denied that he had told Gupta of any possible reshuffle, or that the controversial businessperson played a role in the appointment of ministers.
“He had nothing to do with what happens in government.”
Mentor previously testified that while at the Gupta's Saxonwold compound in 2010, she was offered the job of public enterprises minister on condition she terminate SAA’s Johannesburg-Mumbai route. Mentor said Zuma was at the compound at the same time.
Zondo asked Zuma on Tuesday if he recalled who Mentor was. He responded in the affirmative.
On Monday, Zuma’s lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, questioned why the inquiry was even asking the former president about Mentor’s account of her alleged meeting with Ajay Gupta.
Mantsha suggested that Mentor had been discredited after giving incorrect details about the Gupta’s Saxonwold residence, and argued that what she had testified had not been proved to be true.
Evidence leader Paul Pretorius said on Tuesday that Zondo had yet to make a finding about the “credibility and reliability” of Mentor’s testimony, and the questions still needed to be put to Zuma.
The inquiry had briefly ground to a halt earlier after Zuma’s legal team protested about Pretorius’s questioning about the former president’s alleged role in the dismissal of government communications head Themba Maseko. He testified that he was transferred a month after refusing Gupta’s demands that he allocate the state’s R600m advertising budget to his family’s newspaper The New Age.
Zuma denies that he played any part in that shift, and appeared to blame late minister in the presidency Collins Chabane for the move.
His advocate, Thabani Masuku, expressed unhappiness over Pretorius’s questions to Zuma over this issue, and argued that they amounted to “cross-examination”, rather than clarity-seeking questions.
The dispute was seemingly resolved during a private meeting between Zondo and lawyers for Zuma and the inquiry.