Makhosandile Zulu
5 minute read
4 Feb 2020
2:09 pm

Duduzane, Magashule’s son allegedly among those at Saxonwold when former SAA boss met Tony Gupta

Makhosandile Zulu

Former Eskom board chair Vuyisile Kona says R100K in cash was offered by Gupta as a 'welcome to the family' that 'takes care of each other'.

Duduzane Zuma, left, and Ajay Gupta. Picture: ANA File Photo

Former South African Airways (SAA) Eskom board chair and the former acting CEO at the airline, Vuyisile Kona, alleged that former president Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane; the son of African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Ace Magashule, Tshepiso; and the adviser at the time of former minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba, Siya Mahlangu, were present at a meeting in Saxonwold where Tony Gupta allegedly offered Kona cash as a welcome to “the family”.

Kona was on Tuesday giving testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

The meeting at the Gupta residence, Saxonwold, took place at around 29 October 2012, the commission heard.

“Going back to those events, it still haunts me today,” Kona said.

Kona said he found it strange and uncomfortable that Mahlangu “pushed” him to meet with the Guptas, whom he knew nothing about and had not met.

Kona told the commission that at the time he was handling a number of issues at SAA, including putting together a turnaround strategy for the airline.

He said he had tasked the supply chain unit at SAA with following the process of appointing a consultancy company to assist with compiling a business plan which was required at the time to secure a R5-billion guarantee from Treasury.

Three companies, including Lufthansa Consultancy and Gupta-linked McKinsey Consultancy, provided quotes for this tender, however, the former was eventually awarded the contract at R6 million, the commission heard.

McKinsey had submitted a quotation of R40 million, which Kona said was no brainer that the tender would be awarded to the more experienced Lufthansa Consultancy.

Kona said he had initially resisted Mahlangu’s insistent requests to meet the Guptas, suggesting they should come to his office but the minister’s adviser at the time dismissed this suggestion.

On the day of the meeting, Kona said his and Mahlangu’s cellphones were taken from them when they arrived at Saxonwold and that he was then led into a room with Tony Gupta, who introduced himself that way, Zuma junior, whom he said he knew from television, and Tshepiso, whom he said he knew from the Free State.

The meeting at first was cordial and friendly and pleasantries and compliments were exchanged, the commission heard.

“It was a very strange conversation, it was like I was being welcomed to the family,” Kona said.

He said Zuma, Magashule and Mahlangu did not say a word, only Gupta did the talking.

Kona said the discussions eventually revolved around the challenges the airline faced at the time and that Gupta then said, “I have to welcome you to the family, you are now part of the family”, which was confusing to him.

Kona said Gupta further said “they” were aware that he had not been paid – both as SAA board chair and acting CEO – and then offered him R100,000 as “a welcome to the family”, saying “We look after each other”.

Kona, however, turned down the money, which he said was in cash, and Gupta allegedly gave him a cynical look and asked him why he turned it down and then increased the offer to R500,000, which he said he also rejected.

Kona’s rejection of the offers changed Gupta’s mood, the commission heard.

“His demeanour stopped from being friendly to more business-like – more serious,” Kona said.

Just before the meeting came to an end, the director-general of public enterprises at the time, Tshediso Matona was called and asked to explain, the commission heard.

As he was leaving Saxonwold, Kona received a call from Matona who asked him why he had awarded the consultancy contract to Lufthansa and he, Kona, explained that supply chain had taken the final decision on the matter, the commission heard.

A week later, a letter from public enterprises was sent to Kona with a request to investigate the appointment of Lufthansa, the commission heard.

Though the probe did not find any wrongdoing, Kona said he was prevented from allowing Lufthansa to commence its work.

Kona told the commission that thereafter he felt he was persecuted by officials from the department of public enterprises and colleagues within the board.

Gigaba eventually told the board at the time that it should put together a turnaround plan, which Kona said he did not want to be a part of as it would be a sham.

“Now, chair, I could not be part of that … because we were just [going to be] submitting documents for the sake of it,” Kona said.

Zondo noted that it was interesting that Zuma and others at the meeting had not uttered a word because this is the same as previous testimony by former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and former Free State MEC Mxolisi Dukwana, who gave testimony on two separate meetings at the Gupta residence.

Kona later confided to the acting SAA board chair at the time Dudu Myeni about the meeting, however, the latter was more interested in what he had drunk and ate, warning him that she not “go around drinking and eating, these people practice witchcraft”.

Kona said he assumed Myeni then called around because he then received a text message from Mahlangu who complained that he, Kona, had sold him out.

A message from Mahlangu was read at the commission: “Uyangithengisa [you are selling me out]. Why did you let her know that you knew where she was going? You will compromise the mission.”

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.