#StateCaptureInquiry: Vytjie Mentor questions her role as a witness
12 February 2019
Former ANC parliamentarian Vytjie Mentor on Tuesday expressed concern about her role as a witness at the Zondo commission into state capture, saying she felt that she had only been presented with information by legal teams cross-examining her that does not corroborate her version of events.
"For the better part of me being on the witness stand I have felt that I have had to deal, in vain, with issues that are not corroborating, in any way, my version before you, I have felt that all the time.
"I have been made to feel like my role as a witness is to explain and deal with whatever that does not corroborate anything. Whatever that has corroborated has not been put to me," she said to chair of the commission Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
This grievance was expressed shortly after Mentor's lawyer, Anthony Gotz, objected to the manner in which advocate Mahlape Sello, SC, put questions to the witness regarding the statement made by former ANC MP Dennis Bloem on the infamous "Saxonworld offer".
Bloem was one of the people with whom Mentor claims she informally discussed the offer of a ministerial position by the Guptas at their Saxonwold home in 2010.
In his statement Bloem confirms that an informal discussion did take place, but he states that it occurred "around August, 2010" and not in September/October 2010 as Mentor earlier suggested.
Gotz expressed concern that Sello was only highlighting parts of the statement that did not corroborate with Mentor's version of events while ignoring the majority of the statement which is in line with the witness' testimony.
Intention 'not to discredit witness'
"I take objection to the manner in which Bloem's statement has been put forward as it does not highlight parts where he corroborates Mentor's version of events," he said.
"Mr Bloem's statement is in large part hearsay. It is what Mentor told him.
"The intention of this exercise was not to discredit the witness but to give Mentor an opportunity to deal with anything that Bloem has said that is not in line with her version of events," Sello explained.
Mentor further placed it on record that a large part of Bloem's statement correctly captures what she told him in 2010.
"The few things that may not be in line with my version of events, I do not hold those things against him," she added.
Zondo assured Mentor that her role as a witness was appreciated and the questions were not designed to show favour to one party over the other.
"It may be that the legal team is concerned with what information may be against you.
"There is no intention by the legal team to treat you unfairly, they are making sure that they gather enough evidence so that I make a finding," he further explained.
The inquiry continues on Tuesday afternoon with advocate Mandla Mtolo's cross-examination of Mentor.
Vytjie Mentor insists records were tampered with
If it was decided that Vytjie Mentor's evidence before the state capture commission of inquiry was inadmissible, what would her response be?
This was the question which commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, asked Mentor on Tuesday.
"One of the things that maybe someone will say is South African Airways (SAA ) records were put up and you had issues, Home Affairs records were put up and you had issues with them, cellphone records are put up and you have issues with them.
"Someone might say you have [an] issue with all the records and I therefore should not accept your version of events, what would you say to that?" Zondo asked.
In response, Mentor suggested that there was a possibility that records may have been tampered with.
"A lot of time has lapsed since I went public about state capture. A lot of time has lapsed before this commission could even see the light of day.
"It is possible that that length of time gave people time to interfere with records," she claimed.
She also called for a forensic investigation into the records, but Zondo did not comment on her request.
Zondo's question arose from the fact that Mentor took issue with the cellphone records of Lakela Kaunda during cross-examination.
Kaunda served as the chief of staff and a spokesperson during Jacob Zuma's term as president.
She alleged that Kaunda phoned her on a Sunday evening before she travelled to Johannesburg from Cape Town in 2010 to arrange for her to meet Zuma. From the meeting, she was transported to the Gupta home in Saxonwold, where she was allegedly offered a ministerial position.
Advocate Henry Cowley, who represents Kaunda, highlighted that the cellphone records of October 2010 do not show communication to any of Mentor's numbers.
"How does Kaunda have her records when a cellphone provider only keeps five years' worth of communication. So how did she get hers?
"I cannot attest to the veracity of these records because they are not from the service provider but from Kaunda herself," Mentor said in response.
Mentor maintained that she communicated with Kaunda that Sunday evening.
"I am very clear that Miss Kaunda spoke to me that night," she insisted.
Kaunda's records were not the only ones she took issue with. Earlier on Tuesday, she requested that an independent expert be brought in to look at SAA and Department of Home Affairs records.
But Zondo explained: "It is not clear to me why we would need anybody else to testify on SAA records because we are looking at SAA records."
Mentor's testimony ended on Tuesday afternoon.
She thanked the commission for its work.
"I want to thank the chair for allowing me to blow the whistle on state capture, as much as I have been aggrieved in the manner in which I felt I was being interrogated. I think this is a very good process and I want to encourage South Africans to come forward," she said.
The commission is expected to resume on Thursday with the testimony of former ANC MP Dennis Bloem.