Ajay Gupta 'used political clout' to grab company linked to Motlanthe's wife

26 November 2019 - 16:59 By Amil Umraw
Ajay Gupta allegedly demanded 90% of a mining company linked to former president Kgalema Motlanthe's wife.
Ajay Gupta allegedly demanded 90% of a mining company linked to former president Kgalema Motlanthe's wife.

Ajay Gupta allegedly used his political clout with the backing of former president Jacob Zuma to obtain shares in a company linked to Kgalema Motlanthe's wife, Gugu Mtshali.

Testifying at the state capture inquiry on Tuesday, former State Security Agency (SSA) director Gibson Njenje detailed a series of meetings with Mtshali, Gupta and former Mineworkers Investment Company (MIC) chairman Archie Luhlabo in 2010. This was less than a year after Njenje started in the position.

Njenje said he had been driving home from OR Tambo International Airport on a Sunday when he received a call from his "long-time friend" Luhlabo, who asked him to come to Sandton for an urgent meeting.

Njenje drove to Motlanthe's home, where he met Luhlabo and Mtshali, who were at the time directors of a mining company called Imperial Crown Trading (ICT). Their company was in the process of acquiring a 21.4% stake in the Sishen/Kumba mine operation in the Northern Cape, previously held by mining giant ArcelorMittal.

Njenje told the commission: "They [Mtshali and Luhlabo] were fuming. They informed me they had just been to a meeting. They said they were called to Saxonwold by Ajay Gupta and [Gupta] told them that he wants 90% of ICT - they must give him 90% of ICT because he is the only person who has the financial muscle and the political backing to get that award [of prospecting rights] granted." 

Njenje said the pair asked him to mediate between them and Gupta. He said Mtshali called Gupta, who allowed Njenje to attend a meeting at his Saxonwold home on the same day.

Describing that meeting, Njenje said Gupta had "demanded" a 90% stake of ICT - without paying a cent - for the use of his influence to secure the mining rights. He said Gupta told them that he was "not taking the company" but was going to "help" ICT. Otherwise, he warned, "they are going to walk away with nothing - and 10% is better than nothing".

According to Njenje, Gupta "said the reason why they wanted 90% is not because they are greedy but because he has a lot of people they have to take care of with that 90%". 

"In exchange, through his influence and his financial backing, he would assist to overcome ongoing litigation at the time," he said, adding that Gupta "said they would secure the rights with the help of Zuma". 

They eventually agreed that the Gupta-owned JIC Mining Services would acquire 50% of ICT, free of charge.

Njenje said he met Gupta a second time "a few weeks later". This time it was on Njenje's request because he "was worried about the influence" of the Guptas on Zuma.

"When we sat, he told me he agreed that I should come to that mediation meeting because after Mtshali called him, he checked with [Zuma] whether or not I’m the right person and [Zuma] said, 'That’s a good old friend - he will sort things out, don’t worry,'" Njenje told the commission.

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