The return of the Gupta brothers to South Africa is paramount to the state capture inquiry, and they will not be granted any special favours.
This is what deputy justice Raymond Zondo said at the state capture commission on Thursday, after denying their application to cross-examine witnesses who have already testified at the commission, including former Government Communication Information Services boss Themba Maseko, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor and former deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas.
All three of these witnesses implicated Ajay and Rajesh Gupta in questionable dealings and how they expected government officials to operate.
Zondo, in response to the application which was put forward by Advocate Mike Hellens SC on behalf of the Gupta brothers, said that he would grant their application if they returned to the country.
“As long as they are [not] prepared to personally and physically appear before the commission within the borders of South Africa, and where this commission can exercise its powers over them, their application cannot be granted,” Zondo said.
The Guptas have said that they would be willing to testify, but only on the condition that an official is sent to meet them, or that it happens via a video conference call, for fear of being arrested by the Hawks who they called “incompetent”.
According to a supplementary affidavit that Zondo read out to the commission, the brothers are currently in the United Arab Emirates, and they “have no intention of ever returning to South Africa for any reason whatsoever” for fear of arrest.
“Once they are within the borders of South Africa and are prepared to appear physically and personally before the commission, I would have absolutely no difficulty in granting them leave to cross-examine. For it is quite clear, that at least Mr Ajay Gupta, is seriously implicated and it would be fair that he be granted an opportunity to cross-examine any witness who implicated him,” Zondo said.
Former president Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane, however, has been granted leave to cross-examine Jonas.
This week Duduzane did an about-turn and said that he was prepared to testify at the commission after Jonas said he was with the Guptas during their attempt to offer Jonas R600 million in exchange for taking up the position of finance minister.
Meanwhile, running alongside the Zondo Commission is the parliamentary inquiry into the Gupta naturalisation process, which has been investigating how members of the Gupta family were granted early citizenship by the department of home affairs.
Hlomane Chauke, who is chairing the home affairs portfolio committee, said in no uncertain terms on Thursday to officials who were testifying that it was “a serious matter”.
Chauke called on a key figure, Ashu Chawla, to testify for his alleged role in getting the Guptas South African citizenship.
Chawla, according to his lawyer, is in India and would be returning to the country in November.