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Zondo calls Gigaba's bluff, says he knew the Guptas well

Atul Gupta at his family's former compound in Saxonwold. File photo.
Atul Gupta at his family's former compound in Saxonwold. File photo.
Image: Kevin Sutherland

Former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba knew the controversial Gupta family well and even knew their mother, even though he denied this during his testimony, the state capture report has found.  

During his four-year tenure as public enterprises minister between 2010 and 2014, Gigaba was also at the forefront of lobbying for Gupta associates to be appointed to critical positions at state-owned enterprises - including the position of chairperson of the Transnet board which was shot down by Cabinet.  

His relationship with the Gupta family dates back to as early as the 2000s when he was president of the ANC Youth League, the second Zondo commission report released on Tuesday states.

Former minister Malusi Gigaba at the state capture inquiry.
Former minister Malusi Gigaba at the state capture inquiry.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/The Sunday Times

However, in affidavits filed with the commission and in response to questions from the Fundudzi Forensic Services investigators who conducted a forensic investigation into wrongdoing at Transnet during the time he was the responsible minister, Gigaba “initially sought to downplay the relationship, but his testimony reveals that he had extensive, recurring contact with the Gupta family over a number of years”.   

During his testimony at the commission, he sought to explain the falsehood on the basis that the question was ambiguous which it was plainly not, Zondo said. 

In a further affidavit filed in August 2021, after he had completed his testimony before the commission, Gigaba revisited the issue and argued that answers to Fundudzi investigators were not provided directly by him but by his attorney.     

Upon reflection after his testimony, in another affidavit Gigaba admitted to having had a relationship with the family for a number of years, but said he started to distance himself from them in 2014, when he came to see them as “peddlers of influence”.

“Mr Gigaba in fact knew all the Gupta brothers and their mother, was especially a friend of Mr Ajay Gupta (who he would visit at Sahara Computers) and made regular visits to the Gupta Saxonwold compound while he was minister of public enterprises,” the report states.  

According to the report, Gigaba’s special adviser, Siyabonga Mahlangu, was tasked with managing the Guptas and was a “buffer” between Gigaba and Ajay Gupta “so as to not confuse the roles of friendship and business.”

He allowed Mahlangu to travel with former president Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, to a Gupta wedding in India. The trip was paid for by Sahara Computers. Despite being away, Mahlangu was paid his salary in full, the report states.     

“Mr Gigaba attended the notorious Gupta wedding at Sun City and the Guptas were invited to his wedding,” the report states.

Gigaba who was appointed to the ministry position by then-president Jacob Zuma, used his position to endorse the appointments of Gupta associates into critical positions. 

In November 2010, he approved an internal memo which proposed a list of candidates for appointment as non-executive directors to the Transnet board.

Among other things, it proposed that Vijay Raman be replaced by Iqbal Sharma (who in 2012/14 was the business partner of Gupta associate Salim Essa, and who later assumed control of the company's bid adjudication committee).  

“The substitution of Mr Raman with Mr Sharma was questionable in light of the minister’s responsibility to ensure that the board had an appropriate mix of skills and experience,” the report states. 

In December 2010, Cabinet approved Gigaba’s recommendation for the board at Transnet, including the appointment of a new chairperson - Mafika Mkwanazi. The new board included Sharma.

“Gigaba was later party to an attempt to appoint Sharma as the chairperson of the board, Cabinet rejected that recommendation because he was inexperienced and therefore risked a negative reaction from the capital markets...

“And that there were fears that he may be closely identified with a wealthy Gupta family, Mr Sharma, as mentioned, went on to be appointed as the chair of the [bid adjudication committee] which played a central role in key procurement decisions that advanced the interests of the Gupta enterprise,” Zondo said.


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