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‘Guptas were eyeing NC uranium deposits’

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This emerged during Vytjie Mentor's testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture.

Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor testifying at the commission of inquiry into the state capture yesterday.

The Gupta family had their eyes on uranium deposits in the Northern Cape which they wanted to procure for the nuclear deal.

This is according to outspoken former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor who continued to deliver her testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture, currently underway in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Mentor, who is from the Northern Cape, told the commission that the eldest Gupta brother, Ajay, had asked if she could assist the family in terms of the uranium deposits in the Northern Cape which they wanted to procure for the nuclear build programme.

During her testimony, Mentor explained how shocked she was when one of the Gupta brothers allegedly promised her a ministerial job if she assisted the family’s business interests.

The commission heard how the Gupta brothers were confident about their power over former president Jacob Zuma, which allegedly allowed them to tell him who to hire and fire.

During her second day of testimony yesterday, Mentor continued where she had left off on Monday, with more explosive revelations regarding the Gupta brothers’ alleged interference with the running of the state.

According to a report on the hearings issued by Corruption Watch, Mentor stated that her disclosures in this regard to Zuma, Parliament and later, the ANC leadership at Luthuli House, had gone unaddressed.

“Mentor started off by further detailing to the commission her September 2010 encounter with eldest brother Ajay Gupta at the family home in Saxonwold. He had told her, she said, that the family could always put in a good word for her with Zuma should she want a ministerial post,” the report stated.

It further quoted her as saying that she felt that he did not have the authority to offer ministerial positions to her or to any other person. “I said to him it is only the president, in discussion with Luthuli House, that has the authority to do that,” she was reported as saying.

“Even prior to that, said Mentor, Gupta had revealed to her top-secret details associated with the state’s defence company Denel. The only reason she herself knew of the matter was that she was a member of Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence and was therefore privy to these details. It concerned her that a member of the public could have known of this.

Mentor further said, according to the report, that she felt that he was not paying attention to the issues she was telling him. “His main focus was to calm me down,” she stated

The seemingly unperturbed Zuma then helped Mentor, who was on crutches at the time, to leave the room. “He picked up my handbag from where I had placed it next to where I had been seated, and walked me out,” she is quoted as saying.

Mentor further observed what she referred to as the disrespectful tone in which Gupta enquired with Zuma if he’d be having something to eat. She recalled that she was shocked at the lack of protocol in the way Gupta spoke to Zuma.

Far from Zuma reacting to Gupta, as Mentor would have expected, he was more interested, she said, in reassuring her as he escorted her out. “Don’t worry about anything, and take care of yourself,” he told Mentor in isiZulu, as he walked her out to the car that would then drive her back to the airport where she was to catch a flight back to Cape Town.

Soon after the encounter, Mentor was back in Parliament for a meeting of the joint standing committee. Just before the proceedings began, she told some of the members of her recent meeting at Saxonwold, catching the attention of several of them. Once the meeting had commenced, an opposition party member raised the issue, with the understanding that the item would be added to the agenda.

The chairperson at the time, Siyabonga Cwele, took it on as a matter to refer to Luthuli House, suggesting that it would be dealt with there. Mentor noted to the commission that she recalled an update request from Cwele, away from the committee but was only told that Luthuli House was dealing with it. A later attempt to raise the matter with then ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and his deputy Jessie Duarte, was also unsuccessful, Mentor said.

Mantashe left the room soon after she raised the issue, and with only she and Duarte in the room, Mentor got the sense that the latter too was not keen on tackling the matter.

Meanwhile, Mentor raised concerns about her safety at the hotel she’s staying while she testifies after she found out that her hotel room door’s ledger was broken.

A tearful Mentor told commission chairman Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that she did not want to sound like an alarmist, but that she cannot return to a hotel room that she did not feel safe in.

She said she discovered that the door ledger was broken two nights ago and alerted the hotel. When she arrived back from the commission, she found that it was fixed.

Upon leaving her hotel room yesterday morning, she realised that she had left her glasses behind.

“I then turned back to my room, the room is accessible using a card. The door would not open with the card. I then decided to see if it would open without using the card and it did…if I had not forgotten my glasses I would have come here having left a room that is unlocked…I am worried about going back to a room that I don’t know who accessed it and what might happen.”