SUNDAY TIMES - Vytjie Mentor tearfully opens up about Guptas,,
Sunday Times News By Jan-Jan Joubert, 2016-03-20

Vytjie Mentor tearfully opens up about Guptas

Vytjie Mentor breaks down during an interview with the Sunday Times at her Durbanville home
Image: Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

She remembers the day clearly as she had to be up at 3am to take the first flight out of Cape Town. With an injured leg, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor needed more time to prepare for a Johannesburg trip that would one day change her life.

From her home in Cape Town, Mentor spoke this week about the day she was offered a cabinet position, and declined because it came from the Gupta family.

"It was not as if I was looking for a promotion the day I flew to Johannesburg while I was on crutches. I had been trying to get hold of the president for a long time regarding our country not losing the intellectual property rights associated with the pebble bed reactor development - a matter I had also raised with the then-minister of energy, Dipuo Peters, among others," said Mentor.

She did not divulge all the details of what transpired on that day at the Guptas' Saxonwold home while President Jacob Zuma was in another room, keeping some powder dry in case the Guptas follow through on their legal threats.

"When the plane landed, I was met by two guys who held a board with my name on it. I got into the back of a black twin cab and started reading the newspaper.

"After a while, I realised we were not heading for the ANC headquarters at Luthuli House.

"We stopped at Sahara's premises and the one guy, who turned out to be the younger Gupta brother, said I would meet the president but he was held up ... at Luthuli House.

"I was then taken to meet a biggish guy who turned out to be Atul Gupta. We did not really know how to relate and made chit-chat. When I told him my son played cricket, he said they had a box at Newlands Cricket Ground.

"We then left the older brother behind and went to the home where a young Indian chef offered me food. By now I was agitated. It was almost 2pm. Then, the older brother appeared. By now I was very irritated. I told him it was not on. Was the president coming? If not, I wanted to go to the airport.

"He then made his offer very quickly, saying that the SAA route to India was not profitable, and that SAA had to be turned around. If I agreed to assist in dropping the route, I could be a minister within a week.

"I was really, really, really, really shocked, and turned him down. There are other details I'll reveal at the right time.

"As I left, the president entered from another entrance ... I immediately told the president about the offer and that I had turned it down. They tried to stop me, probably wanting to tell the president themselves.

"I told the president I could not do it; it was not correct ... We were talking amicably. There was no bad blood. I was angry with the Guptas, not with the president. He walked me down the stairs and to the car. I have not seen him since," said Mentor.

She has no doubt that she would be able to back up her claims should she be taken to court.

"I am very meticulous at the keeping and unearthing of records."

Regarding Zuma's statement that he could not recall knowing her, Mentor said he certainly did not struggle to recall her 25 years ago at the first ANC elective conference after unbanning at the then-University of Durban-Westville in 1991.

"My daughter was about three months old and was tended to while conference took place, but I checked up on her continuously.

"I passed Mr Zuma's security staff and they asked whether he could meet me as he had noticed me while receiving reports about the political situation across the country.

"He had a sharp eye then. Now he has no recollection.

"During my years as a member of parliament we served together on the ANC political committee ...I also chaired the ANC caucus, and anyway, people tend to remember me because I am very emphatic," said the feisty politician.

Mentor confirmed that Zuma had made sexual advances to her at some stage in the past - she has referred to them on her Facebook page - but did not want to discuss them until the time is right to do so.

So why spill the beans now?

"I realised the danger of the Guptas basically grabbing the Treasury, a strategic company, and South Africa's nuclear capabilities.

"The Treasury used to be the jewel in the crown of the state - as it should be."

Asked about her safety, she said: "I do not care so much about my own safety. I chose to do what I chose to do. But my children did not.

"I have enough of a pension to buy bread and milk. But my children should not be in danger."

It was at this point that Mentor broke down.

"I have served my country. I am no longer scared to die. We were not scared to die under apartheid either. But must I live like a bird again under a state I fought for?"