State capture accused Ajay Gupta acted as unofficial advisor to former minister in Zuma's govt: Witness

The Gupta brothers, now in self-exile in Dubai, have consistently refused to appear before the commission

State capture accused Ajay Gupta acted as unofficial advisor to former minister in Zuma's govt: Witness

The Gupta brothers, now in self-exile in Dubai, have consistently refused to appear before the commission

Johannesburg, April 28

India-born businessman Ajay Gupta, the patriarch of South Africa's embattled Gupta family accused of state capture, acted as the “unofficial advisor” to a former minister in scandal-hit former president Jacob Zuma's government and gave him bags of money, an inquiry commission has heard.

Minister Malusi Gigaba knew the Guptas influenced his appointment and those of Brian Molefe and Siyabonga Gama as CEOs of Eskom and Transnet.

All this was told by Gigaba's estranged wife Norma Mngoma, who testified before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Monday evening.

Mngoma made this claim alongside several other damning statements.

The hearing went on almost until midnight after Gigaba first tried to stop his wife's testimony or that it be heard on camera.

Commission Chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo declined the application after lengthy inputs from both sides.

Mngoma gave details of how she had joined her husband on frequent visits to the Gupta estate in Johannesburg, where she saw among other things in the house a money machine that looked like a bank automated teller machine, which Gupta demonstrated for her.

She also described how bags of money were taken to the boot of Gigaba's car, something that a former bodyguard to the minister also told the commission earlier.

Mngoma said Gigaba gave this cash for all their expenses, including “four to five million rands” for their wedding, which she paid to caterers and others.

Mngoma described how Gigaba had been told by Gupta that he would be elevated from being Minister of Public Enterprises to Minister of Finance three months before Zuma announced this publicly.

Later he was upset when Gupta allegedly told him that he would be returned to his former position at the Home Affairs ministry if he did not accede to their demands.

The commission has heard from numerous witnesses that the Gupta brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – influenced Zuma's appointments to the Cabinet and state enterprises.

Zuma subsequently returned Gigaba to the Home Affairs portfolio.

The Gupta brothers, now in self-exile in Dubai, have consistently refused to appear before the commission to testify about their versions of the allegations, which they have denied.

They are accused of looting billions of rands from state enterprises via the vast business empire that they built up after first arriving in South Africa from Saharanpur in India in the 1990s as democracy dawned under the Presidency of Nelson Mandela.

South Africa has approached the United Nations to assist after a lack of cooperation from Dubai for their extradition.

South Africa has no extradition treaty with Dubai.

In a separate development, UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Tuesday that his country would impose sanctions against the Gupta brothers and one of their fellow accused and former associate, Salim Essa.

The UK foreign office said in a statement that the four men were “at the heart of a long-running process of corruption in South Africa which caused significant damage to its economy.” They now face restrictions ranging from visa bans to asset freezes by the UK.

The US took similar action against the four men in October 2019 already. PTI 

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