Justice Zondo said it was improper for Denel to approach VR Laser to reduce its tendered price without giving other tenderers a chance to revise their bids; to sideline and then override Denel officials who were against the awarding of the contract because of the flawed process; to accept the criticisms of other competitors’ capacity to perform without giving them an opportunity to deal with those criticisms; not to start the tender process afresh once the flaws in the process were pointed out; and that the process was concluded in an overly hasty manner.
Zondo said the capture of Denel was orchestrated through the Guptas’ takeover of VR Laser, through the participation of Gigaba and former president Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma.
Zeroing in on testimony provided by Saloojee, who was eventually suspended, Zondo criticised Gigaba.
Saloojee had testified about how he had repeatedly resisted overtures by the Guptas, who through their lieutenant Essa tried to woo him over.
“Saloojee was appointed the GCEO of Denel with effect from January 16 2012 for a fixed term ending on January 31 2015, but renewable thereafter by agreement. When the Guptas, through Essa, called Saloojee to his first meeting with them at their Saxonwold compound shortly after his appointment, their penetration into the SA public and commercial life was relatively well known.
“Their influence at that date is shown by the following facts which emerged from the evidence. First, they persuaded the then-minister of public enterprises, Malusi Gigaba, and Saloojee, the newly appointed CEO of Denel, to go to the Gupta compound on the same day. Second, that Tony Gupta there introduced Gigaba to the CEO of one of the SOEs for the administration of which Gigaba, as the representative of Denel’s shareholder, the SA government, was responsible. Third, that at the conclusion of this very brief meeting, Gigaba made suggestions that Mr Saloojee should work with the Guptas or should co-operate with them.”
Zondo said that despite Saloojee “fobbing” off the family, the Guptas continued to apply pressure on Saloojee through Essa to meet them.
“Saloojee continued to fob them off by restating his position that if they wanted to do business with Denel, they should use its channels created for that purpose. Saloojee’s evidence was that he did not report or share with others the pressure the Guptas were applying to him because he did not know whom to trust. This rings true.
“The Guptas began their relationship with Saloojee by demonstrating to him that they had access to Gigaba. He was told more than once by Essa that approval of the approach to him [Saloojee] by the Guptas had been sanctioned at the very top.”
Zondo wrote that while Gigaba denied Saloojee’s evidence, “Gigaba did not advance any reason or explanation as to why Saloojee would have said he met him at the Gupta residence and that they were introduced to each other if in fact that is not what happened”.
“In other words, Gigaba did not advance any reason Saloojee would have falsely implicated him in this way. Saloojee had no reason to lie about this. On the other hand, Gigaba may have denied Saloojee’s evidence because he did not want to be seen to have urged Saloojee to co-operate with the Guptas. On the probabilities, Saloojee’s version is true.
“The commission agrees with the impression gained by Saloojee from this meeting: that the Guptas were demonstrating their reach and influence, at a high political level. Saloojee’s response to this overture was appropriate: in effect, ‘If you want to do business with Denel, go through the proper channels.’ This was a refrain that Saloojee was to repeat throughout his interactions with the Guptas and Essa and was to culminate in Tony Gupta’s question to Saloojee, in effect: why did Saloojee not take money for doing the Gupta’s bidding, as everybody else did?”