News / South Africa / State Capture

Makhosandile Zulu
3 minute read
12 Feb 2019
2:46 pm

State capture inquiry interrogates discrepancies in Mentor’s testimony

Makhosandile Zulu

The former MP says, for the most part, she feels she has had to deal with cross-examination that does not corroborate her evidence.

Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor is pictured during the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture held in Johannesburg, 29 August 2018. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Advocate Mahlabe Sello, the evidence leader for the commission of inquiry into state capture, on Tuesday addressed discrepancies in the statement and testimony former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor gave to the commission.

These discrepancies include Mentor’s testimony that she had informally told some members of parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence about her 2010 meeting with the Guptas and former president Jacob Zuma at the controversial family’s residence in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, where she alleged she was offered the post of public enterprises minister to replace Barbara Hogan.

Mentor testified that the Saxonwold meeting took place two weeks after a department of trade and industry (dti) trade mission to China which occurred between August 22, 2010, to August 26, 2010 and that, although not immediately after the Saxonwold meeting, she made the informal disclosure to some of the members of the committee.

These committee members, Mentor had said, were the committee’s chair at the time, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, Dennis Bloem, and Hlengiwe Mgabadeli.

However, Sello highlighted that Cwele served as a minister at the time, 2010, and so could not have chaired the committee.

Mentor said she may have confused two separate events; one an informal proposal she made to some members of the committee in 2008 that the committee should have a discussion about the Guptas; and the other her telling some of the committee’s members about the 2010 Saxonwold encounter with the Guptas.

“I think it was in 2008 … There were a lot of media reports about the Guptas at that time,” Mentor told the commission.

Mentor added that in 2010, she did discuss the Saxonwold meeting with Bloem and is certain that she had “disclosed it” with Mgabadeli but “whether she will recall [or not, I cannot confirm]”.

Sello said that although Bloem was no longer a member of the committee in 2010, in his statement before the commission he recounted a telephone conversation between him and Mentor which took place around August 2010.

In his statement, Bloem recalls Mentor requesting to meet in parliament over tea, which they did, and she told Bloem about her encounter with the Guptas brothers.

“Chair, it says around August but the offer would have not been around August in the sense that the state visit [to China] was around the end of August and I was in Saxonwold two weeks after that,” Mentor said.

The former ANC MP conceded that mistakes did happen when people recalled past incidents, saying that she would not “hang Mr Bloem” on his estimation that they met around August.

Mentor later took issue with the manner in which she had been cross-examined ever since she first took the stand at the commission in August last year and in the last two days.

She said, “for the better” part of her time on the stand, she felt that she has had to deal with issues not corroborating her statement and was made to feel that her role as a witness “is to explain and deal with whatever does not corroborate” her version of events, when there is evidence that does.

Mentor said this had been a “disbalance” on the side of the commission’s cross-examiners.

The commission’s chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, assured her that the commission’s team did not take sides or favoured certain witnesses but rather interrogated all evidence and testimony in all possible aspects.

“We look at what may corroborate you [and what may not],” Zondo said.

Sello said the commission had not received a statement from Mgabadeli regarding Mentor’s disclosure to her about the Saxonwold meeting, saying Mgabadeli had had “difficulty” with recalling the incident of the disclosure.

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