Jacob Zuma introduced his son Duduzane to a senior civil servant at his official Pretoria residence Mahlamba Ndlopfu in 2009, shortly after being elected president, and asked him to help his son wherever he could.
The late-night meeting is said to have also been attended by Rajesh “Tony” Gupta.
The senior civil servant, Jacinto Rocha, was deputy director-general in the department of minerals and energy (now the Department of Mineral Resources) when the meeting took place. At the time, the Gupta brothers and Duduzane had their eyes on several mines.
Zuma is understood to have told Rocha: “Duduzane is my only child involved with money. I will appreciate if you help him wherever you could.”
Rocha later resigned from the department, in January 2010, and started a mining consultancy that included Duduzane and the Guptas as clients.
Six days before Zuma reshuffled his cabinet in June 2012, Tony Gupta is said to have summoned Rocha to his family residence in Saxonwold where he and Duduzane recruited him to be a legal adviser to the man they said would soon be South Africa’s new transport minister, Ben Martins.
Details about the Saxonwold meetings are contained in leaked e-mails which show how the Gupta brothers allegedly tried to strong-arm Rocha and Martins to replace existing board members with their cronies.
Rocha was allegedly offered R100-million if he could implement all the changes and channel all the business deals the Gupta brothers wanted from the department.
Then – two days before Zuma appointed Martins as transport minister on June 12 2012 – Tony Gupta summoned Martins to the Saxonwold residence and introduced him to Rocha as one of his advisers.
Zuma’s spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, yesterday could not explain how Tony Gupta knew beforehand who the new minister would be and why he was recruiting advisers for him.
“The Presidency has no knowledge of the said allegations relating to the changes in the national executive of government,” he said.
Although Rocha refused to comment on the meeting with the president, he admitted to being recruited as Martins’s adviser by Duduzane and Tony Gupta.
But Ngqulunga said ministers appointed their own advisers and Zuma had no role in this. “We wish to emphasise that the appointment of ministerial support staff including advisers is done by the ministers without the involvement of the president or Presidency.”
Rocha also confirmed that the Guptas handed him a list of names of people they wanted him and Martins to appoint to boards that fell under the Department of Transport.
“Approximately six days, either June 6 or 7 2012, before the announcement of the reshuffle, Tony Gupta called me requesting to come to Saxonwold to meet with him,” Rocha said.
“On the agreed day, I went to meet him and during our meeting he stated that there was going to be a cabinet reshuffle the following week and that he wanted to recommend me to the future minister of transport for me to be one of his special advisers.
“I then indicated to him [Tony] that I would think about it and revert back to him. On June 8 or 9 we met again where I agreed to his proposal on condition that I meet the future minister before I am appointed.”
The Sunday Times has it on good authority that another adviser, Robert Nkuna, who was also appointed to work with Martins, was also summoned to visit the Guptas’ residence before the reshuffle.
Nkuna this week refused to answer specific questions or give any comment about the visit he is said to have made to the Gupta home.
Martins on Friday confirmed that he had visited the Gupta compound, but could not recall specific dates.
“Yes I have been there. I can’t recall how many times,” Martins said.
The modus operandi said by well-placed sources to have been used by the Guptas in this instance is similar to the one they used in 2015 when Zuma fired finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with Des van Rooyen.
It was revealed in former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report that when Van Rooyen reported to work on December 12 2015 he arrived with two advisers, Ian Whitley and Mohammed Bobat, who were also allegedly recruited by the Gupta brothers.
Madonsela’s report also revealed that Van Rooyen visited the Gupta residence seven days in a row before his appointment as finance minister.
Rocha is the fifth leading figure in government to openly talk about the role the Guptas have played in trying to draw influential people into their orbit.
The others to have spoken out were former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former head of government communications Themba Maseko, former MP Vytjie Mentor and former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi.
Responding to Sunday Times questions, Rocha said the Gupta family knew of Zuma’s plans to reshuffle his cabinet beforehand and influenced the appointment of advisers for a number of the incoming ministers.
It is believed that the Guptas’ main interest in the Department of Transport was to ensure their ally, China South Rail, was awarded a R51-billion contract by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa for 600 commuter trains by restarting the bidding process. They also had their eyes on a R10-billion ICT contract as the department was expected to establish an IT hub.
“The ‘recommendation’ for me to be one of the advisers to the minister of transport was to serve private interest although it was done under the guise that I was a good, trusted and smart person,” Rocha said.
“Their main focus was for us to change the boards of Prasa, [roads agency] Sanral and [airports authority] Acsa, appoint one of their associated companies as transaction advisers for the DoT IT hub, give them the tender for the IT hub, appoint a new DoT chief financial officer recommended by them, restart the process of the train tender which Prasa had already issued, and for DoT and other SOEs to buy a certain number of [copies of The New Age] newspapers.”
However, despite knowing that they were put in their positions by the Guptas, Rocha said, he, Nkuna and the minister refused to carry out the family’s wishes.
“The key is that we, the minister and I, did not execute nor did we give effect to their instructions during the period that we were at DoT.”
During Martins’s tenure as minister, the R51-billion Prasa trains contract went to the French-backed Gabela consortium and the IT hub, which was worth an estimated
R10-billion, was never put out to tender.
The leaked Gupta e-mails reveal a list of proposed “Gupta board members” for Prasa said to have been handed to Rocha sometime in November 2012.
The Sunday Times has also seen a legal opinion obtained by Martins at the time, stating various reasons why the proposed changes were not possible.
It is understood that Martins used this legal opinion to defy the appointment of the Gupta family’s proposed boards, another factor, according to sources, that contributed to him being removed in July 2013 and transferred to the position of energy minister, where he served for less than a year.
“I do not recall the specific legal opinion you are reading to me,” Martins said on Friday.
“But it is obvious that a minister gets a legal opinion before making any changes to boards.
“I have never taken any decisions that were contrary to the dictates of my conscience,” he said, while refusing to be drawn on specific questions relating to the Gupta family and their alleged strong-arm tactics.
Rocha has previously come under fire for being linked to the Guptas through the awarding of extremely lucrative prospecting rights in 2009 to a company called Imperial Crown Trading, which has been widely reported as being a Gupta-linked entity.
Rocha has strongly disputed this, saying that despite the Gupta family parading Duduzane as a shareholder, the Guptas only became involved with the company during an attempted hijacking of it after the rights were awarded.
Duduzane Zuma and Gupta family spokesman Gary Naidoo had failed to answer questions sent to them by the time of going to press.