Ex-driver blows lid off Gupta visitor list
A former Gupta driver has spilt the beans on several visits by cabinet ministers, senior government officials and a top parastatal CEO to the family’s Saxonwold home.
A logbook and notes by Atul Gupta’s driver, John Maseko, reveal how President Jacob Zuma and at least two of his senior cabinet ministers – Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane – Eskom CEO Brian Molefe; Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Ronnie Mamoepa; AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma; and former government spin doctor Mzwanele Jimmy Manyi visited the Guptas’ residence.
Soon after his visit, Molefe was appointed Transnet CEO. Manyi’s visit to the Guptas’ Saxonwold compound coincided with his appointment as the head of government communications.
The latest revelations follow former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report confirming a Sunday Times story that Des van Rooyen visited the Gupta residence seven times in the week before he was appointed finance minister in December last year.
Maseko provided a copy of his diary to Madonsela, who interviewed him on September 22 for her report on state capture. He also signed an affidavit.
Maseko kept detailed notes of who came to the compound while he worked for the Guptas for six months, from November 2010 to April 2011.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Times yesterday, Maseko produced his original diary listing the names and vehicle registration numbers of visitors to the Gupta compound.
According to his notes:
• Zuma visited the residence a day before he attended the Group of 20 summit in South Korea on November 11 and 12 2010 and immediately after returning;
• Molefe was there in January 2011;
• Mamoepa visited in January 2011;
• Dlamini-Zuma arrived there in early January 2011;
• Gigaba came in December 2010 or January 2011;
• Manyi visited in early 2011; and
• Mokonyane was there in February 2011.
Maseko said Zuma visited Saxonwold on his return from the summit “before he was to address South Africa and the media”.
Madonsela said the second phase of the public protector’s investigation into state capture would focus on several parastatals involved in highly publicised scandals involving the Guptas, including Transnet under Molefe’s leadership.
Molefe featured prominently in Madonsela’s report. Phone records show he called Ajay Gupta 44 times during negotiations for the sale of a coal supplier to Eskom, Optimum, to the Guptas.
Atul Gupta described Molefe to Madonsela as a “very good friend” who visited Saxonwold.
But Molefe has so far refused to confirm the visits.
At the time of Mamoepa’s visit, he was Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesman when she was home affairs minister.
Maseko said the ANC’s Judi Nwokedi visited the Guptas before she was announced as the ANC local government candidate for Ward 117, which includes Saxonwold and Parkhurst.
Maseko described how Atul would tell him to stop on street corners to dish out free copies of the New Age to promote the Guptas’ newspaper. The New Age was started in July 2010.
The next phase in the public protector’s investigation into state capture will also look at large orders for copies of the New Age placed by state entities SAA and SABC.
Maseko was chairman of the South African National Civic Organisation in Lakeside Estate, near Vereeniging, when he went looking for work in Johannesburg in 2010.
One of the reasons he was enthusiastic about working for the Guptas was that he had heard Zuma visited them often and he wanted to discuss tender corruption at his local municipality.
“I wanted to talk to the president. Zuma was always saying we must report corruption, so I wanted to raise these issues with him,” said Maseko.
He never got to talk to Zuma. “He drove in and out in his convoy and just waved to us when he got out the car.”
Madonsela also interviewed the former CEO of the Government Communication and Information System, Themba Maseko, who said the Guptas had pressured him to place government adverts in the New Age.
He also alleged Zuma had asked him to “help” the Guptas.
Bongani Ngqulunga, Zuma’s spokesman, said yesterday: “President Zuma left for the G20 summit early on November 9 2010, which would have made it difficult for him to visit anywhere before departure. On his return on the morning of November 13, he did not hold any press conference. He attended a meeting of the ANC national executive committee after his return from Seoul.”
Mokonyane said: “He [Maseko] is correct. I was there at the time.
“I was introduced to the Gupta family by former president Thabo Mbeki. The former president wanted us to speak to the family on how best we can contribute to their magazine, The Thinker, which they started with Essop Pahad. I never had any discussions with president Zuma about the Gupta family.”
Mokonyane also confirmed that she was Gauteng premier at the time of her visit.
Jacob Enoh Eben, Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesman, yesterday said he did not get involved “in such national issues”.
Molefe could not be reached.
Nwokedi said she felt she had been “strong-armed” into meeting Atul at his Saxonwold home. “I was asked to go to his residence to be interviewed,” she said.
“I refused and offered to meet him at the Mugg & Bean in Parkhurst, but pressure was put on me to go. I drove there myself.” She said days later an article aimed at discrediting her appeared in the New Age.
“The democratic process elected me as the preferred candidate. But there appeared to be people who didn’t want me as a candidate,” she said.
Mamoepa yesterday confirmed that he visited the Gupta residence. “Yes, I did visit them but it was a private visit.”
He said his media company was negotiating with the Guptas to market their newspaper.
Manyi, who a month after his Gupta visit took over as GCIS CEO from Themba Maseko, yesterday said his appointment wasn’t engineered in Saxonwold.
“My appointment came after I spoke to late minister Collins Chabane. It is absolutely rubbish that the Guptas had any role in my appointment,” he said.
Themba Maseko left the GCIS after allegedly rejecting Gupta pressure over the advertisements.
Gupta lawyer Gert van der Merwe said he was aware the public protector had interviewed some of his clients’ employees.