A meeting did take place at Gupta compound in Saxonwold on October 23, 2015, but whether former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas was offered money by a Gupta brother is in dispute.
Businessman Fana Hlongwane took the stand at the Zondo commission on Wednesday. He and Duduzane Zuma had been placed at the centre of Jonas’ testimony to the commission.
Jonas appeared last year and said he had been called to a meeting at the Gupta household in Saxonwold by Duduzne Zuma. He said the first part of the meeting took place at the Hyatt Hotel in Sandton and was later moved to Saxonwold at Zuma’s request. Jonas said present at the meeting was Hlongwane and they were later joined by a Gupta brother who he recognised as Ajay Gupta – but was not certain.
He said the Gupta brother offered him the position of finance minister as former president Jacob Zuma was to reshuffle his cabinet. The Gupta said he would receive R600,000 cash and R600 million later if he agreed to take up the position. The offer was on condition if he agreed to help the family.
Jonas said he was shocked and declined the offer. He said Zuma junior and Hlongwane did not speak during the meeting. Hlongwane’s version and that of Zuma differs from Jonas. What all three men agree on is that a meeting did take place at the Gupta residence in Saxonwold, but what’s in dispute is whether a Gupta brother was present and if a job offer was made.
Hlongwane said the reason for the October 23, 2015, meeting was to sort out issues and rumours of blackmail. He said for a while Zuma had been telling him about rumours circulating that he was trying to blackmail Jonas. He said he agreed to Zuma organising the meeting but was not comfortable with a meeting at the Hyatt and requested they move elsewhere.
“Duduzane alerted me that he has been hearing rumours that I was allegedly blackmailing Mr Jonas. He mentioned this on several occasions. I did not take it up at the time because of the relationship I had with Jonas. I believe we are still comrades. He knew I had a close relationship with Jonas and he had concerns about how I was speaking about him and what was being said in the market place. Mr Zuma raised it again and I told him to arrange a meeting so we solve this matter. I had made an undertaking that I will not raise the issue until we have a three-way meeting with Jonas,” said Hlongwane.
He said he knew that venue for the meeting was Gupta residence but said Zuma decided on the venue. The meeting was arranged between Mr Zuma and Jonas. The Hyatt was a problem for me so I called Mr Zuma and asked that we move the meeting and Mr Zuma found a meeting place nearby. We went to that venue (Gupta compound),” he said.
He denied that a Gupta brother had joined the meeting and said there may have been someone who walked in, but the meeting was between the three. There were several interruptions, indeed someone did pip in and I do believe it was a member of the Gupta family. There were interruptions, people coming in for coffee, but there was no one who joined us for the meeting,” Hlongwane said. He has concluded his evidence.
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