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Duduzane Zuma on Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta: ‘That’s my guy’

Daily Maverick logo Daily Maverick 2019-10-08 Erin Bates

a man wearing a suit and tie looking at the camera © Copyright (c) Daily Maverick , All Rights Reserved Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Duduzane Zuma described his very close friendship with Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta, the youngest of the three infamous Gupta brothers. He said they would meet on a daily basis. ‘Mr Tony Gupta is a business partner of mine and he is also a very dear and close friend,’ said the younger Zuma at the State Capture Commission on Monday, 7 October 2019.

Duduzane Zuma has rubbished evidence heard at the Commission of Inquiry Into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud which implicates him in any wrongdoing.

The businessman described his cosy relationship with Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta. “He’s my guy,” declared Zuma. Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta is the youngest of the three infamous Gupta brothers. Eldest brother Atul and middle brother Ajay are, generally speaking, the more well-recognised of the siblings.

During his cool, calm and collected evidence at the State Capture Commission on Monday, 7 October 2019, Zuma repeatedly said of Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta, “That’s my guy.” For some, the remark might recall a repeated motif in the 1964 Motown hit My Guy by Mary Wells.

In it she croons:

Nothing you could say could tear me away from my guy. Nothing you could do ’cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy...”

Zuma spoke fondly of Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta and reflected their ties as both professional and fraternal. He testified he introduced General Johan Booysen of the Hawks to his Gupta friend on Sunday 16 August 2015, because Booysen had expressed an interest in, and curiosity about, the Gupta family.

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That’s my guy’

He said of Booysen’s meeting at the Guptas’ residence:

The discussion was preceded by a discussion on inquiring about the nature of the Gupta family, and so on and so forth. And I’d said, ‘Look, that’s my guy.’”

Zuma testified that Booysen knew where they were going when he collected Booysen and his son from the Gautrain station in Sandton. In contrast, Booysen testified he was unaware of where they were headed.

The plan was to go to number five Saxonwold and that’s exactly what we did,” said Zuma. The chairperson asked:

So he too knew that the plan was to go to the Gupta residence?” Zuma replied:

That was the only plan for that day. That was the only plan. There was nothing else.”

On Monday morning, the smartly dressed son of former President Jacob Zuma appeared at the State Capture Commission venue in Parktown, Johannesburg with little fanfare. He was represented by a legal team comprising seven members, including two senior counsel.

Advocate Piet Louw SC noted his client had not been forced to appear.

Mr Zuma, as I say, is not here on subpoena. He is here because he wants to be here,” said Louw. He emphasised “these are not adversarial proceedings” and later this was reiterated by his client.

Evidence leader advocate Phillip Mokoena SC presented Duduzane Zuma with the evidence of six witnesses who had named him in their testimony.

They are: former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former Free State MEC for economic development Mxolisi Dukwana, former minister of mineral resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi, former adviser to Ramatlhodi advocate Mahlodi Sam Muofhe, former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head General Booysen, and former ANN7 editor Rajesh Sundaram.

Glaring omission

Noticeably absent from the list was the evidence of Vytjie Mentor, who previously chaired the portfolio committee on public enterprises and served as a parliamentarian for the ANC.

In late August 2018 chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said to Mentor:

Your complaint against the former president was that of a corrupt relationship between himself and the Gupta family?” Mentor replied:

Including his son.”

Toward the end of his testimony on Monday, Zuma highlighted the “glaring omission” of Mentor’s version from those Mokoena cited during the day’s proceedings. The State Capture Commission’s in loco inspection of the Guptas’ residence in Saxonwold in late 2018 arguably bombed, with many of the details Mentor described absent on site.

Rumour has it

While Zuma confirmed the meeting of Friday, 23 October 2015 between himself, Fana Hlongwane and Jonas at the Gupta family’s residence in Saxonwold, he insisted the trio only discussed a rumour. He said the meeting ended well.

When we all emerged from that room, it was all cool,” said Zuma, who at one point gestured a thumbs up. Zondo then referred to the version provided by Jonas, who testified Zuma told Jonas that his “old man” as in, then-president Jacob Zuma, liked Jonas.

No, that is not a remark that I made. Definitely not,” said Zuma.

Jonas testified that a Gupta brother disclosed then minister of finance Nhlanhla Nene was soon to be fired, and this Gupta brother allegedly offered him the position provided he would work with the family. Jonas claimed as part of the proposal, the Gupta brother offered him R600,000 cash then and there, with another R600-million promised in an offshore account.

Zuma’s report of the meeting at the Guptas’ residence clashes with an official statementissued by Oakbay Investments on behalf of the Gupta family in March 2016. It declared no meeting occurred at all. In an affidavit tabled as part of his application to cross-examine Jonas, Zuma stated Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta “popped in” during the October 2015 meeting, but had no part in the discussion. He denies Jonas was offered a job and money.

Mokoena pressed the witness as to why, if he wanted a private place to speak with Hlongwane and Jonas, he did not seek a venue in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosebank - where Zuma and Jonas initially met. Alternatively, asked Mokoena, why did Zuma and Jonas not travel to his private home in Saxonwold, which was within walking distance of the Guptas’ home.

I’ve conducted many meetings from the Gupta residence. My residence was a private residence and I have never conducted meetings there,” said Zuma, adding that he held business meetings “on a daily basis” at the Guptas’ place. 

Mokoena posited that the reason for selecting the Guptas’ residence was in order for a Gupta brother to be present. Zuma replied:

That’s not true, sir.”

He further testified that Jonas was well aware of the destination when the two men left the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Zuma said that he was the “laaitie” in the situation, who had spoken with “Uncle Fana” about the rumour that Hlongwane was allegedly blackmailing Jonas. Although he had not met Jonas before, Duduzane Zuma knew Hlongwane and therefore facilitated the meeting.

Why you must arrange this meeting simply to discuss a rumour?” asked Mokoena.

Firstly, I was not chosen. I decided. I decided to put the meeting together,” replied Zuma. He testified that only the rumour was discussed and no ministerial job offer or bribe was made, the opposite of what Jonas had testified.

No conflict of interest, apparently

The younger Zuma rubbished the narrative of “being an organiser, a conduit to meetings and influence”. He said it was an “unfair point” for anyone to say there was a conflict of interest in the Guptas’ television station ANN7 obtaining government advertising when he was a shareholder and his father was head of state.

The conflict, myself being the son of the president at that time, my father being in office, I think that’s an unfair point to make by Mr Sundaram or anyone else,” said Duduzane Zuma.

Mokoena confirmed Duduzane Zuma’s 21% stake in Infinity Media through his company Mabengela Investments and the witness agreed ANN7 received government advertising revenue.

Wouldn’t that be an obvious conflict?” asked Mokoena.

No, I don't think so at all,” replied Zuma. He described ANN7 as a startup which received government funding “like any other channel” and added he implored the government to support any startups.

Mokoena raised ANN7 editor Sundaram’s suggestion that Zuma was the de jure shareholder while his father Jacob Zuma acted as the de facto shareholder, for instance providing editorial input.

Mokoena referred to a paragraph in Sundaram’s statement in which the editor alleged then-president Zuma held a stake in Gupta businesses through his son.

I think there is a lot of creative writing in this paragraph,” quipped Zuma.

Zuma testified he decided to “pull back” from hands-on involvement in a lot of his companies because there had been “a prevailing narrative up until this point about State Capture, corruption, influence outside of government, appointing of ministers, and whatever else”.

Did they investigate?’

When Free State MEC Dukwana testified in August 2019, he reported on a 2011 meeting at the Guptas’ residence at which he said Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta, Duduzane Zuma and then Free State Premier Ace Magashule, among others, were present.

Dukwana claimed he was presented with a document he was expected to, and refused to, sign. He alleged he was offered a monthly bribe of R2-million in exchange for his signature. He claimed during this event Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta showed him piles of cash in R200 notes packed into in a black lawyers’ bag.

Further, Dukwana claimed Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta announced Magashule and Duduzane Zuma received R1-million monthly in cash in connection with a reported mining project in Jakkalsfontein, Limpopo.

They both nodded their heads in agreement,” claimed Dukwana.

I don’t know him,” said Zuma. “I do not agree with each and every part of the statement, paragraph by paragraph and I do not agree that this meeting took place [...] in entirety I completely refute it,” he said in reply to Dukwana’s version.

The witness then posed a question to Justice Zondo regarding the work of the State Capture Commission’s investigators:

Have they actually looked into activities in Jakkalsfontein?” Duduzane Zuma said a lot of allegations had been made against him, and this one was very serious. 

I’ve been accused of receiving monies from this said mine by Mr Dukwana. Did the commission follow any due process, did they investigate?” he asked.

On a walkabout

Zuma testified he attended only one of four meetings listed by Sundaram in his evidence. That meeting was held at the Midrand studios of ANN7 on Monday, 19 August 2013. Then-president Zuma visited the premises for a walkabout.

Mokoena noted that neither Ramatlhodi nor Muofhe implicated Duduzane Zuma, but Rule 3.3 notices had been issued to notify him of their mention of his name. Ramathlhodi testified Zuma sought to meet him in person to congratulate him after his appointment as Minister of Mineral Resources.

I don’t recall that but it could be true,” said Zuma.

However, he denied ever meeting with Ramathlodi at the Saint George’s Hotel and Conference Centre in Pretoria. Ramatlhodi testified the two met to discuss allegations Zuma ascribed to two sources regarding Ramatlhodi bad-mouthing his business partners, the Guptas. Zuma said:

No. I have never had that discussion with him, Chair.”

Zuma returns to the State Capture Commission on Tuesday, 7 October 2019. Proceedings are set down from 10am. He is set to undergo re-examination by one of his lawyers, Piet Louw. Thereafter, the focus will shift to the Vrede Dairy Project, with evidence expected from estate agent Johannes Theron and agricultural co-ordinator Elder Mtshiza. DM

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