Former Denel board chair denies being appointed to capture company for the Guptas
Former Denel board chairperson Daniel Mantsha has denied allegations that he was appointed to capture the company on behalf of the Gupta family.
Mantsha was testifying at the state capture inquiry on Friday.
He was appointed as chairperson of the board in 2015. He resigned in 2018, just months before his three-year term ended.
Mantsha told the inquiry that when the new board arrived, Denel was a sinking ship.
“Denel was owing Nedbank and Absa more than R4bn. The financial state was dire at the time, compounded by a transaction on which Denel had spent R855m, which Denel did not have. It was catastrophic.”
Evidence leader Paul Kennedy asked Mantsha, who at the start of proceedings asked to address the inquiry to give his version of events, why he had not given the details in an affidavit when he was requested to do so.
“The approach the investigators of the inquiry use when it comes to people like myself, who were in the service of the country, of trying to accuse people of being either enablers of state capture or being involved in state capture, it doesn’t send incentives to people to come and talk,” Mantsha said.
Mantsha said he rejected the notion that he did not want to co-operate.
The inquiry heard Mantsha had refused to consult with inquiry investigators. His legal counsel apparently told investigators to address any issues they had with Mantsha via
“I do not want to subject myself to an unfair process. It is not true that there was no reason for me to consult with the investigators,” Mantsha told Kennedy, who said it was disappointing that Mantsha had refused to consult with inquiry investigators.
“There has been mala fide [carried out in bad faith or with intent to deceive]. I did not want to subject myself to that. I co-operated to the extent of the basis of the information I have.
“It is not correct that I did not co-operate. Here I am. I am here to explain my part. I am here to explain the board. I am here on good faith,” Mantsha said.
He accused the investigators of interrogating witnesses.
“You were not interrogated,” Kennedy said to Mantsha.
“I know people who have been interrogated,” responded Mantsha.
In his affidavit Mantsha denied he was appointed to capture Denel for the benefit of the Gupta family.
“VR Laser had already signed an agreement with Denel. The first agreement between Denel and VR Laser was signed before our appointment," he said.
Gupta meeting 'indirectly related' to Denel
Mantsha, who was appointed during former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure, confirmed he had acted as the former statesman’s lawyer.
“I acted for the former president in 2018, after I left Denel,” he said.
Mantsha also confirmed he had attended a meeting at the Gupta residence in Saxonwold. He was chairperson of Denel at the time.
“Yes, I attended the meeting at the Gupta residence. This was the only meeting and the last meeting where there was a discussion indirectly related to Denel.”
He said he had been to the Gupta residence countless times before, and had met the Gupta family prior to his appointment as chairperson of Denel.
“I did meet the Gupta family and their associates in the media in the course of my advising the then minister of communications [Faith Muthambi],” Mantsha said.
Asked if he had had any dealings with businessman Salim Essa, he said: “I did not have any dealings with Mr Essa except ‘Hello, how are you?'”
He told the inquiry that he was aware that Essa had a close relationship with the Guptas.
Asked if former Denel CEO Riaz Saloojee had told him about anything improper the Guptas or Essa might have asked of him, Mantsha said he was not aware of anything.
I think Mr Gupta must be given the benefit of the doubt to put his version.Daniel Mantsha
“This is what Mr Saloojee said: 'It was Rajesh “Tony” Gupta who asked me why I did not take money like everyone else. I rejected his advances',” Kennedy said.
“This was not conveyed to me,” Mantsha responded.
“Does it not concern you now that behind the scenes of transactions, one of the Guptas, according to Mr Saloojee, approached him and tried to encourage him to personally benefit by receiving money?” Kennedy asked Mantsha.
“It is my concern for officials of public entities to accept bribes. I’m completely against it. There was no situation under my leadership of the board where there was a contract presented to us and we were supposed to approve it. Never,” Mantsha said.
“Had I known about it, I would have sharply raised that matter. I think Mr Gupta must be given the benefit of the doubt to put his version.”
He said he had expected Saloojee to report the matter to the police and to him.
“The fair thing I expected of Mr Saloojee was to go to the police and report that attempted bribe and open a case. Of course I would have expected Mr Saloojee to raise it with me.”