5 highlights from Ngoako Ramatlhodi's state capture testimony

29 November 2018 - 12:18
By Ntokozo Miya
Former mineral resources minister and ANC NEC member Ngoako Ramatlhodi at the commission of inquiry into state capture.
Image: Masi Losi Former mineral resources minister and ANC NEC member Ngoako Ramatlhodi at the commission of inquiry into state capture.

When Ngoako Ramatlhodi appeared at the state capture inquiry on Wednesday, he gave the commission an insider's account of how the Gupta family operated.

He also said that warnings to then-president Jacob Zuma about his relationship with the controversial Guptas had fallen on deaf ears.

Here are 5 highlights from Ramatlhodi's testimony. 

Zuma's star team

Ramatlhodi said he had a close relationship with Zuma, whom he first met in 1986.

The pair got even closer when Ramatlhodi was put on a "multi-faceted team" that "was meant to manage the issues of the trials" of Zuma.

While Zuma was deputy president, he faced corruption charges and needed this team to manage his communications, legal inputs and public perception.

"We had a team like that which then had to interrogate each and every facet of the appearance in court and to come out with strategies of how to get him off the hook. And I believe we did very well in that regard."

The Zuma-Gupta "toxic" relationship

Ramatlhodi said Zuma was cautioned about his problematic relationship with the Gupta clan.

"In the national executive we would raise this issue with the president. We would say to him: 'This relationship of yours with these guys is toxic, why don't you end it?'"

"He would say: 'Those people are my friends because they helped my children when I was persona non grata. They helped Duduzane. They helped Edward. They gave them jobs when no one wanted me."

Duduzane attempts to arrange Gupta meeting 

According to Ramatlhodi, after months of failing to arrange a meeting between Ramatlhodi and Ajay Gupta, Duduzane resorted to fabricating a story to try to get the former minister to the table.

Ramatlhodi told the commission that Duduzane spoke to him about rumours that Ramatlhodi was "badmouthing" him and the Gupta brothers.

"I then said to him: 'You know Duduzane, you're as good as my son. Why would I run around badmouthing you when you are committing crime? I won't even tell your father, I will just summon you and ask you why are you involved in crime.'"

Ramatlhodi continued: "My own reflection is that they had been trying to meet me for a long time and I was refusing so they had to create a story and hoping that maybe I would then go and meet this fellow called Ajay Gupta."

Waterkloof Air Force Base landing

In 2013, the Guptas landed at the Waterkloof Air Force Base ahead of a family wedding that was held in Sun City in the North West.

"Only heads of state land there," Ramatlhodi testified.

"One day I'm at correctional services, an airplane lands at our Waterkloof Air Force Base carrying wedding people. That for me was the last insult."

"I felt they were insulting even the president because what they were doing was to show off, you know, that they had captured the republic, it's theirs. They are not presidents but they can land at an air force base."

Ramatlhodi said the reception that the Guptas received was "well-planned", which would not have been possible "without higher authority knowing."

Dinners at Gupta Cape Town residence

Ramatlhodi was suprised to find out that staff in his department had dined with the Guptas.

"During the mining indaba, the DG and DDGs from all my departments in minerals would then be hosted by the Guptas in their Cape Town home."

The Guptas would also invite business people and investors.

"The way they operate, they were demonstrating power to these people. What they do, they'll call this whole department there and then call people who would be investors and say: 'You see, we've got the department, it's here, we want you to do this and that.'"

Ramatlhodi claims that he put his foot down when he became minister and banned his department from attending events at the Gupta home.