#StateCaptureInquiry: Duarte disputes meeting Mentor over Gupta Cabinet post offer

ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte has rejected claims by the party's former MP Vytjie Mentor that the two discussed an offer by the Guptas to Mentor for a ministerial post in exchange for business concessions.

"I have never discussed any matter with the lady other than her complaint about a leg injury [that] she sustained at Parliament. And I became [deputy secretary general] in 2012," Duarte told News24 on Tuesday.

Mentor told the commission that she reported the matter to both Gwede Mantashe and Duarte in 2010 in their capacity as secretary general and deputy secretary general, respectively.

She said she met with Duarte two days after her meeting with the Gupta brothers at their mansion in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.

While Duarte worked at the ANC's headquarters at the time, she was only appointed deputy secretary general in 2012 at the Mangaung elective conference.

Mentor told the commission of inquiry into state capture that she informed Mantashe and Duarte that Ajay Gupta had offered her the job of public enterprises minister if she in turn would drop the SAA Johannesburg to Mumbai route so a Gupta-linked company, Jet Airways, could benefit.

Duarte 'noted' the matter

She said Ajay told her that there was a planned reshuffle by former president Jacob Zuma and he was going to fire Barbara Hogan, who was the incumbent.

Mentor said Zuma was in the Gupta mansion and walked into the room where she was having a confrontation with Ajay over the offer she had rejected.

However, she said Zuma did not engage her on the ministerial job offer or planned reshuffle but instead calmed her down.

READ: Mentor describes her encounter with Zuma at Gupta's Saxonwold home

Mentor said after she informed Mantashe and Duarte about the incident, Mantashe left the meeting saying he had another scheduled meeting while Duarte only "noted" the issue.

During her testimony, she said in her analysis Duarte "did not want to discuss the matter extensively".

"She said she was taking note of the issue I am raising and they will deal with it."

Mantashe would not comment when contacted by News24, citing the fact that he had a civil suit pending against Mentor for "manufacturing facts".

In April last year he launched legal action against Mentor, demanding damages after Mentor claimed that Eskom gave Mantashe's wife, Nolwandle Mantashe, "the biggest government catering contract in history".

News24 understands that Mentor was yet to formally respond in the law suit and Mantashe will be applying for a default judgment against her.

READ: Mantashe sues ex-MP Vytjie Mentor over slurs

Mentor was testifying on day five of the inquiry headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

She added that she had also informed the parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence about the Gupta Cabinet post offer, but nothing had come of it.

She said at the time ANC MP Siyabonga Cwele was the chair of the committee and was present at the meeting.

Earlier, Mentor told the commission that Ajay told her about a "confidential project" between state-owned arms manufacturer Denel and India.

Mentor has also implicated Zuma's former aide Lakela Kaunda, saying that it was Kaunda who contacted her to inform her that Zuma would be meeting with her in August 2010.

Kaunda has denied the claims, submitting an affidavit that she never engaged with Mentor during that year.

Former GCIS boss next to testify

She has since applied to the commission to cross-examine Mentor. Zondo has deferred his decision on the application, deciding to wait for Mentor to complete her testimony.

Mentor also told the commission that she "rejected" the ANC's 2016 internal inquiry into the Guptas' alleged undue influence.

She said she had more faith in a state inquiry.

Mentor has been on the stand for two consecutive days and is expected to complete her testimony on Wednesday morning.

She will be followed by former Government Communication and Information System CEO Themba Maseko.

He was the first person to directly implicate Zuma in allegations of state capture. He said Zuma personally contacted him, asking him to help the Guptas who were looking to secure government advertising for their controversial newspaper The New Age.