Former Denel chair Dan Mantsha says nothing wrong with his association with the Guptas

26 March 2021 - 19:00
By aphiwe deklerk AND Aphiwe Deklerk
Former Denel board chairperson Daniel Mantsha. File photo.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu Former Denel board chairperson Daniel Mantsha. File photo.

Former Denel board chair Dan Mantsha told the Zondo commission that there was nothing wrong with his relationship with the Guptas, nor with former Sahara CEO Ashu Chawla.

Mantsha was testifying at the commission on Friday, where he was questioned about several trips paid for by Chawla and a lift he was offered by the Gupta brothers on their private plane to India.

He denied any wrongdoing, saying the trip was taken in his private capacity and that he did not need to declare it. Mantsha told the commission that he had paid Chawla back for the trips as he had been using him just to make the bookings.

Evidence leader Adv Paul Kennedy had been questioning Mantsha about trips he took to Dubai which were arranged by Chawla and paid for by Westdown Investments, which was a shareholder in VR Laser which entered into a dubious deal with Denel Asia.

Duduzane  Zuma, son of former president Jacob Zuma, and Salim Essa were both shareholders of the company.

On one of the Dubai trips, he was booked on the same flight with Duduzane Zuma and his wife, Shanice.

Mantsha told the commission that the trip was for personal business, where he met up with his younger brother — but on the trip he socialised and even stayed at the same hotel in Dubai with Zuma.

Asked why the trip was paid for by Westdown Investments, Matsha said it was due to an arrangement he had with Chawla to book flights for him when he travelled abroad.

“I use him to arrange [travel] ... I didn't know which account he was using to pay but the arrangement between me and him, we arrange and he tells me how much it is, I settle. He did inform me that Mr Zuma would be going to [Dubai],” said Mantsha

He said the first engagement he had with Chawla was when he travelled to India, where he found out that he had a side business.

“He said, 'Look, in future if you have this kind of [travel], contact me I will arrange. Visa, whatever you need',” said Mantsha.

He told the commission that he paid for all the trips booked by Chawla in cash, but the only proof of payment would be if the commission asked Chawla to verify his story.

When asked by Kennedy if he considered it appropriate to have dealings with Chawla given his association with the Guptas, Mantsha told the commission he saw nothing wrong with it.

“There was nothing wrong and I don't see anything wrong for an individual like myself at the time when there was convenience and I took the convenience. So I am not going to get into who he is, it was convenient for me at the time to actually take the offer.

“He has done it before and there was no reason for me to say I cannot deal with him, I don't have it,” said Mantsha.

Kennedy said the reason it was inappropriate was that Mantsha had just taken over as board chair at Denel and that  the Gupta family was doing business with the same company.

Mantsha further said he had no reason to declare the free trip he took with the Gupta brothers to India.