A visibly nervous Vytjie Mentor took the stand to give testimony in the second week of the commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday morning, admitting that she has trouble distinguishing between Brian Hlongwa and Fana Hlongwane. She testified that the latter was present when she met with then president Jacob Zuma.
#StateCaptureInquiry Mentor says she's nervous and deputy chief justice Zondo asks her to relax and take her time BD
— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) August 27, 2018
This is the second time a failure of memory has marred testimony in the inquiry. Last week, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas admitted that he could not be sure if the man present when he was allegedly offered R600 million to take over from Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister was Ajay or Rajesh Gupta.
While Jonas testified that a Gupta brother had made the offer and threatened his life if he went public with it after he refused, he was not completely sure which Gupta brother it was.
In her testimony, Mentor also suffered from confusion. While she maintains the man with Zuma at a meeting she attended was businessman Hlongwane, it was pointed out that she had previously named Hlongwa in a book she wrote.
She detailed a meeting with Zuma and two people she could only identify as being “Indian looking”.
She continued to testify that Zuma asked her if he could introduce her to “his chairman”, whom she identified as Hlongwane.
But inquiry chair and Deputy Chief Justice Ray Zondo questioned why, in Mentor’s book ‘No Holy Cows’, she had mentioned Hlongwa rather than Hlongwane.
Mentor answered that this was a mistake she could not explain except to say that both the businessman and ANC politician had been in the media, and that she had mixed up the surnames, mistakenly believing that Hlongwane’s name was Brian and Hlongwa’s Fana.
She was also questioned on why, in her interview with then public protector Thuli Madonsela, Mentor didn’t mention Hlongwane or Hlongwa.
Mentor says she simply forgot to mention either Brian Hlongwa or Fana Hlongwane I her interview with Public Protector. I suspect during cross examination these discrepancies will be used against her. #StareCaptureInquiry (@hlatseentle)
— Team News24 (@TeamNews24) August 27, 2018
Elsewhere in her testimony, Mentor says she met one of the Gupta brothers on a flight with Duduzane Zuma, and that while she initially could not tell which brother it was she later learnt it was Rajesh.
She says she was able to later tell the brothers apart by their physiques.
“Ajay and Atul are two confusing Indian names,” she told the commission.
— Mahlatse Mahlase (@hlatseentle) August 27, 2018
Mentor is a former ANC MP whose testimony is attempting to lay bare claims of how the politically connected Gupta family attempted to offer her a cabinet position eight years ago in the presence of Zuma. Today is the fourth day of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
While David Lewis of Corruption Watch did not foresee Mentor’s allegations differing much from those of Jonas’ –who testified on Friday and alleged to also having been offered a senior cabinet post by the Guptas, which he declined – former ANC MP Dr Makhosi Khoza says Mentor is “the only one who puts Zuma right in the crime scene”.