Saxonwold confusion: Mcebisi Jonas takes aim at Ajay Gupta’s affidavit.

It’s no surprise Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas has come out in defence of Ajay Gupta’s replying affidavit. Jonas and Vytjie Mentor both say they were offered positions of power if they used it in favour of the Guptas. And while it’s a he said/she said affair at the moment, Mcebisi highlights some irregularities in the Gupta response. There were sniggers a plenty on social media when the date of the meeting referred to 25 October 2017, many pointing to the powers of fortune-telling. But the year is not the only error according to Jonas, who said he met the Guptas in Saxonwold on the 23rd of October. One can expect a lot more to-ing and fro-ing, before the hearings actually begin. – Stuart Lowman

By Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas has taken on Ajay Gupta in a replying affidavit that dispels an allegation that he lied about a 2015 meeting that took place at the Gupta residence in Saxonwold.

“I … met Mr Ajay Gupta at his Saxonwold residence on 23 October 2015 and … he did speak to me on that day,” said Jonas.

Mcebisi Jonas, South Africa’s deputy finance minister, speaks during a News24 Frontline event in Cape Town, South Africa, on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

The purported meeting is a major puzzle piece in allegations that the Guptas are guilty of state capture through their influence over their close friend President Jacob Zuma.

The meeting – in which Jonas was allegedly offered the job of finance minister – would have occurred just over a month before Nhlanhla Nene was fired as finance minister and replaced for a few days by Des van Rooyen (who was then dumped for Pravin Gordhan).

In an affidavit last Friday, Ajay Gupta denied meeting Jonas and called him “blatantly dishonest”.

The tit-for-tat affidavits stacking up form part of a court case between Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments over its blacklisted bank accounts. The hearing is set to be heard on March 28.

Gupta got Duduzane Zuma, one of the president’s sons, as well as Fana Hlongwane, who were at a meeting with Jonas that day, to swear in separate affidavits that he was not there.

Both these affidavits have a typing error that shows the meeting was held in October 2017.

In the affidavit filed by Jonas on Thursday, he pointed out that both these affidavits “confirm explicitly that the meeting indeed occurred”.

Ajay Gupta being interviewed by Stephen Grootes

“All that they seek to do is to ‘confirm that Mr Ajay Kumar Gupta was not present’ during the ’25 October 2017 [sic]’ meeting. “Even if one is to understand the reference to be to 25 October 2015 (instead of 2017), then the confirmatory affidavits remain materially defective,” said Jonas.

“This is, because as I have stated and the Public Protector’s report records, the relevant meeting occurred on 23 October 2015.

“Therefore, the absence of Mr Ajay Gupta at a meeting two days later, on 25 October 2015, fails to confirm the necessary allegation. In any event… the key issue is that the meeting… took place at the Saxonwold compound shared by the Gupta brothers and their families and that a Gupta brother was present.”

Jonas pointed out that the bank’s affidavit referred to his previous testimony that he met with “members of the Gupta family”.

He clarified this, saying he had previously not met or seen the Guptas and relied on images of them in the media.

“I did not previously encounter either of these two brothers (Ajay and Atul Gupta). I am only able to identify them from photos and footage in the media,” he said.

“Therefore, even were Mr Ajay Gupta’s allegations which merely seek to absent himself from the meeting (but without explaining why the meeting was held at the Gupta residence, or suggesting that he was unaware that it would be held there or authorised that the Gupta residence be used for this purpose) to be truthful, which I deny, then the primary fact regarding the members of the Gupta family remains common cause.”

Pointing to the testimony he gave former public protector Thuli Madonsela for her State of Capture report, he repeated the following.

“The correct facts regarding Mr Ajay Gupta himself are, in short, as follows:

  • I met him at his Saxonwold residence on 23 October 2015 together with Messrs Duduzane Zuma and Hlongwane.
  • Mr Gupta indicated to me that ‘we’ – I understood clearly, the Gupta family and its interests – had been gathering intelligence on me including those closest to me;
  • they were aware of my activities and connections with senior members of the African National Congress; they are going to make me the Minister of Finance;
  • collectively as a family they make a lot of money from the state, that they intend to increase that to about R8bn from about R6bn currently and that the bulk of their money is stashed in Dubai;
  • they have determined that the National Treasury is a stumbling block to their ambitions of making money from the South African government;
  • they have made Mr Duduzane Zuma a billionaire including the house he has in Dubai;
  • Mr Gupta is offering me R600m to be deposited in an account of my choice;
  • and if I had a bag that could carry R600 000 then I could get that amount there and then.”

Jonas said nothing in Madonsela’s report questions the “integrity of my version”.

“Mr Gupta indeed accepts this in seeking to criticise the Public Protector for ‘latching onto’ my version, while clearly not giving any credence to his own.”

“I accordingly deny Mr Gupta’s version and reject his allegation that I am ‘blatantly dishonest’.

“It in any event falls to be struck out for being scandalous, vexatious and irrelevant,” he said. “Mr Gupta signally fails here or anywhere else in his affidavit to specify the alleged inconsistency, contradictions and flaws: his assertion is denied.

“Mr Gupta’s complaint that it is ‘awkward’ that the Public Protector had ‘latched onto (sic)” my version is an own goal. Awkwardness evidently lies in the eye of the beholder.”

Gupta said he has reported his version of the events to the “appropriate authorities”, which means Gupta’s assertion that he should have raised the issue earlier has “no merit”.

“I had raised it already in March 2016.” – Fin24