Mentor accuses Zondo commission of being biased against her

2019-02-12 16:59

Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, whose testimony was shown to have more holes than Swiss cheese on Tuesday, has accused the state capture commission’s legal team and investigators of being biased against her.

She also went on to challenge evidence from South African Airways and the Department of Home Affairs that contradicted her version of events.

Her reaction came after Tuesday’s proceedings played out in a similar fashion to Monday’s.

Mentor faced a barrage of questions from commission advocate Mahlape Sello, who poked serious holes in her initial testimony given before the Zondo commission in August 2018.

She stuttered while giving her responses and at times her answers were incoherent. When it was clear that he had been backed into a corner after investigators from the commission dug into some of the claims she made in 2018, Mentor chose to address the chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, directly.

“For the better part of me being on the witness stand from August last year to date … I have felt that all the time I have been made to feel like my role as a witness all the way is to explain and deal with whatever does not corroborate anything,” she said.

She argued that the legal team seemed to prefer dwelling on allegations that she made and had not been corroborated instead of focusing on the numerous issues that she had raised “and have been verified”.

She went on to argue that she felt like she was being treated “unfairly and in “an imbalanced” manner.

Zondo explained to her that there was a reason why the legal team and the investigators were focusing on matters that needed verification.

He said it was because her testimony, if proven to be true, “had dire consequences for those implicated” – hence the need to authenticate all the allegations prior to those implicated getting a chance to present their version of events before him.

He also added that she was being given the chance to make corrections on her affidavit so that the commission would be fully aware of her position.

This came after Mentor backtracked on yet another claim. This time she reneged on an assertion she had made that, following the meeting she had had with then president Jacob Zuma and the Guptas in which she was offered a Cabinet position, she had briefed some members of the portfolio committee on intelligence.

In her August 2018 testimony Mentor said: “I did not immediately go public on the Saxonwold incident. The joint standing committee on intelligence, of which I was a member, met on Wednesdays. Shortly after my encounter with Mr Zuma and the Guptas at their residence I did disclose to a few members of the committee what had happened at the meeting. They [the members] were Hlengiwe Mgabadeli, Dennis Bloem and chairperson of the committee Siyabonga Cwele.”

To this, advocate Sello said: “What we have been able to determine in our research is that Mr Siyabonga Cwele became a minister on September 25 2008, and he was appointed minister of intelligence. He held that post until May 10 2009. After the elections in 2009, he was appointed minister of state security until 2014.

“My point to you is, if the research is correct, Mr Cwele could not have been a portfolio committee chairperson as at August 2010 because by then he was already a minister.”

Mentor conceded that her testimony was wrong, and added that “I was going to correct that later when I finalise my statement”.

Zondo advised that she make all necessary corrections to her testimony and not wait until she was done testifying.

Advocate Sello, for the commission, introduced evidence from the department of home affairs and Emirates Airline.

According to the evidence, Atul Gupta, who Mentor had said was one of the Guptas she met in China, did not fly to China to attend the government’s formal event in August 2010.

The department of trade and industries’ records also showed that, according to their records, Atul Gupta did not attend the China event.

Mentor was also presented with evidence from South African Airways and Parliament’s record that showed she did not travel to Johannesburg from Cape Town in 2010.

She raised questions regarding this evidence, claiming that she had travelled to Johannesburg to meet with Zuma.

Even with no evidence, Mentor maintained: “I have a problem with these records and I maintain that I flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg on a particular Monday and flew back on that same Monday.

“The documents from SAA, they are not on a letterhead. The appearance does not look professional to me,” she said.

Yesterday the legal team also tore into Mentor’s claim last year that there were four or five houses in the Gupta compound. She maintained that, during an inspection she did with the commission’s legal team and investigators, she saw a wall that was not there in 2010 and may have been placed there to cover the houses that she had initially seen on the premises.

During the inspection, the legal team and investigators were looking for specific details that Mentor mentioned in her testimony last year.

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February 23 2020