'Knowing a person does not make you complicit in their wrongdoing': Gigaba on friendship with Ajay Gupta

23 June 2021 - 14:07 By mawande amashabalala
Former cabinet minister Malusi Gigaba at the Zondo commission in Parktown, Johannesburg. File photo.
Former cabinet minister Malusi Gigaba at the Zondo commission in Parktown, Johannesburg. File photo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times

Former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba on Wednesday told the state capture inquiry that it would be short-sighted if it operated on the belief that corruption started and ended with the Guptas in the public sector.

Gigaba was concluding his evidence when he was quizzed about whether he accepted that his proximity to the controversial family aided their R57bn alleged looting spree of state entities.

According to Gigaba — who concedes that he was “friends” with one Gupta brother, Ajay — knowing people does not make one complicit in their illegal activities.

Furthermore, even if the Guptas had looted the SOEs to the extent that they are alleged to have done, they were not the champions of corruption in the country and the ransacking of state resources did not stop with their escape from the country when their friend,  former president Jacob Zuma, resigned from the Union Buildings. 

“It is not only these issues of allegations of state capture that ought to concern us, it is a whole range of things,” said Gigaba.

“You would talk about PPEs [personal protective equipment]. I think there have been concerns to a point that government even established investigations into PPEs, people taking advantage of the pandemic.

“You would have to look at two or three contracts at Eskom — Medupi, Kusile and Ingula power stations. You would have to look to the long-term coal contracts in the SOEs.”

Gigaba rejected as “not true” a proposition by evidence leader advocate Anton Myburgh  that it was improbable for him as minister of state enterprises not to have known that the Guptas were making a fortune out of questionable contracts.

The reports he got as minister from SOE boards and executives, he went on, never contained details of which contracts were going to be awarded to which companies.

Thus, Gigaba would have never known that Gupta companies were allegedly being favoured to advance the state capture project.

“To the extent that this happened, a looting exercise of this magnitude [R57bn], the reports that were coming to me would not have contained this. As the executive authority you do not get these reports, they happen very far away from you,” he said.

“I knew Mr Ajay Gupta and there are many people we all know who get involved in wrongdoing, but knowing a person does not make you complicit in their wrongdoing.

“I have never been in business and so whatever they [Guptas] were doing, that I knew Mr Ajay, does not in any possible way mean I was involved in their wrongdoing. That can only be established through fact, not innuendos and propositions.” 

Gigaba emphasised that his hands were clean and that there was no evidence that he enabled Gupta looting or had benefited from it.

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