Former Denel CEO, Riaz Salooje says he first met with two of the Gupta brothers and then Public Enterprise Minister Malusi Gigaba in 2012 at the family’s Saxonwold residence for a meeting organised by Gupta associate, Salim Essa.
“I was not aware that this was the residence at that point in time. He said ‘don’t worry. This has the support of the very top.’ And then we get to the place and we get inside and I’m taken into a room and introduced to Tony Gupta and it’s the first time I’ve met with Tony Gupta (sic). And then shortly after that, Tony escorts me into another room and in another room, he introduces me and says this is my brother; and in the room was also Minister Malusi Gigaba who said ‘these are my friends’ and he hopes that at some point, if there is anything that you can do with them that can be good and that …”
Saloojee has told the Zondo Commission that he felt pressured to attend meetings organised by Salim Essa. He says he was summoned to a second meeting where he met with Duduzane Zuma and Ace Magashule’s son.
Saloojee says he felt uncomfortable with the meetings involving family of senior ANC leaders.
“When I get into the room there, Tony Gupta and Essa are present there; but there was also another individual who was there and I was introduced to the individual as Duduzane Zuma, and later there was another individual who was there for a short while who Tony Gupta said is Ace Magashule’s son. And Essa took a lead at the meeting and he said I should understand that they supported my appointment. I was extremely surprised when he made this statement.”
Saloojee says he left Denel with positive order book, but today Denel is struggling to pay salaries of its employees. He says what happened in Denel and other State Owned companies should never be allowed to happen again. #StateCaptureInquiry
— State Capture Commission (@StateCaptureCom) March 20, 2019
‘You are not cooperating’, Tony Gupta allegedly tells Saloojee
Former Denel group CEO Riaz Saloojee has told the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture that he was shocked when one of the Gupta brothers, Tony (Rajesh) Gupta, allegedly attempted to offer him money.
The offer was allegedly made after a meeting at the family compound in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.
Saloojee told the commission that he was taken aback by the offer, adding that it was so “blatant”.
This was after the family and their business associate, Salim Essa, told him that they wanted to do business with Denel.
During his testimony on Wednesday, Saloojee detailed three meetings he had with the controversial Gupta family at their residence.
He was “summoned” to these meetings by Essa in 2012 – a few months after he joined Denel.
Saloojee told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, chair of the inquiry into state capture, that Essa informed him that he wanted him to meet some people, and that it would be in the interest of Denel.
He said Essa also told him that he had support from the “highest level”.
Saloojee told Zondo that by 2012, when he arrived at Denel, he was already aware of the Gupta family and Essa, in terms of media reports and the publicity around them.
Coffee shop meeting Saloojee said he met Essa at a coffee shop and Essa then drove him to the Gupta compound.
He said when he arrived at the Gupta family home, he was taken into a room and introduced to Tony Gupta.
“Shortly after that, Tony escorts me into another room, in that room he introduces me, (and) says, ‘this is my brother’ and he doesn’t say who the brother is, he just says ‘this is my brother’.
“His brother greets me and says ‘Hello Riaz, how are you?’ and I said I’m fine and then he turns around, and in the room was also Minister Malusi Gigaba – and then he says to Minister Gigaba, ‘Minister Gigaba, this is the new CEO of Denel, this is the new guy’.
“Saloojee said the meeting lasted for about seven minutes and there was no discussion of Denel.
He told Zondo that Gigaba told him: “These are friends, and if at some point there is anything you can assist them with (at Denel), that would be good.
“He said from what Gigaba told him, he did not sound like he was giving him an instruction to help the family.
He added that there was a clear message that they had influence.
He said Essa invited him to the Gupta residence for a second meeting.
When asked why he did not invite Essa to come to the Denel office, Saloojee said he did not “feel comfortable” with him coming to the office.
Instead, Saloojee said he drove himself to the Gupta residence.
Second meeting During the second meeting at the Gupta home, Duduzane Zuma, son of former president Jacob Zuma, and a person who was introduced to him as the son of former Free State premier Ace Magashule, were present.
Saloojee said in that meeting, Essa told him that the Guptas “had supported” his appointment as group CEO of Denel.
He was also told that the Guptas had the support of “number one”, in reference to the former president.
He said he was informed that the Guptas wanted to do business with Denel, but he told them that they needed to follow the proper processes.
Soon after the meeting, Saloojee said he did not take Essa’s calls for a while but eventually agreed to a third meeting with Essa and the Guptas, where Tony took the lead.
Saloojee told the commission that Tony told him: “You are not cooperating, and this lack of your cooperation is a serious issue.
“He said Tony also indicated that he did not want to “elevate” this matter further.
“I was extremely surprised when he made this statement,” Saloojee said.
He told Zondo that Tony also asked him why he didn’t take money.
“He says to me, because everybody takes money.
And I looked at him very specifically in his eyes and I said to him, ‘I do not take money’.
And I walked down the stairs and I left,” he told Zondo.
Mantsha’s appointment as Denel board chair seen as continuation of ‘takeover’ – Saloojee
The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture has heard how the appointment of Daniel Mantsha in 2015 as chairperson of Denel, the state arms manufacturer, was a continuation of a “takeover” of the company.
This was the testimony of former Denel group CEO Riaz Saloojee before inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Saloojee spent Wednesday dropping bombshell after bombshell about how he believed Denel was a target of state capture.
Saloojee said before the annual general meeting and the announcement of a new board in July 2015, the company’s Zwelakhe Ntshepe informed him that Gupta associate Salim Essa wanted to meet with him so he could introduce him to the new chairperson of the board, Mantsha.
Saloojee told the inquiry that he was “perplexed” that Essa wanted to introduce him to the new chairperson of the board, given that Essa had also introduced him to the Guptas in the presence of then minister Malusi Gigaba, Duduzane Zuma, son of former president Jacob Zuma, and Ace Magashule’s son.
He also told the commission that he then concluded that Mantsha and Essa had an “understanding”.
‘Old board supported me 100%’ He said while Mantsha assured him that things at Denel would be done the right way, he was still sceptical.
Saloojee testified that he knew that it was difficult for the Guptas or their business associate Essa to get rid of him while the “old board” was there.
“The old board had supported me a 100%,” he said.
Saloojee also detailed how he and his colleagues were suspended over the acquisition of Land Systems SA from BAE Systems.
Saloojee told Zondo that he went away to a defence exhibition in London with then minister of public enterprises Lynne Brown.
He said while they were there, the new audit and risk committee was continuously asking the company secretary Elizabeth Africa for documents on the Land Systems deal.
He said while in London, Mantsha told him that the risk committee was unhappy with the conduct of the company secretary.
It was alleged that she did not give the committee all the documents of the Land system transaction.
Letter of suspension Immediately after the London trip in September 2015, the three senior executives were called to a meeting with Denel’s new audit and risk committee and were accused of serious misconduct relating to the Land System.
Saloojee said he and his colleagues, Africa and chief financial officer Fikile Mhlontlo were all individually called into meetings, presented with the list of allegations and given 24 hours to give reasons why they should not be suspended over the Land Systems transactions.
He said soon after this the committee informed them that it had considered their representations and that it had resolved that they should be offered a three-month package.
Saloojee said he received a letter from Mantsha confirming his suspension.
He claimed Mantsha told him that because he did not offer the committee his representations it had no choice but to suspend him.
“What he was saying was not true?” Zondo asked.
“Yes,” Saloojee replied.
‘Inexplicable’ He said they were then informed that Denel appointed Dentons law firm to conduct an investigation into the Land system transaction and on their conduct in that transaction.
Saloojee also read out parts of a letter which was signed by Mantsha, addressed to the company’s acting secretary at the time.
In the letter, Mantsha asks the secretary to, “further requested to inform Dentons that their report is not accepted and request them to provide us with a report within 30 days and kindly direct them to provide information to support the charges”.
“I mean this is inexplicable that the chairman of the board is asking the company secretary to ask Dentons to change the report and that the new report should support the charges against us,” Saloojee testified.
“A chairman of the board who is also an officer of the court,” evidence leader advocate Leah Gcabashe said.
City Press previously reported that there was speculation that the trio’s removal was related to the controversial Denel Asia joint venture.
Mbalula ready to ‘amplify the truth’ The hearings are expected to continue on Friday with evidence from the ANC’s Fikile Mbalula.
Mbalula has vowed to “amplify the truth” when he testifies before Zondo, News24 previously reported.
“Everything that [former finance minister] Trevor Manuel said regarding head of elections about me is true, and it is now up to me to go to the state capture commission and amplify that truth and put it into context,” Mbalula, who is the party’s head of elections, said at the time.
Manuel previously testified that Mbalula had an emotional reaction during one of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) meetings over an interaction he had with one of the Gupta brothers.
Manuel revealed that at the NEC meeting in August 2011, members had a tense discussion about the influence of the Guptas.
Manuel said Mbalula cried while talking about an engagement he had with one of the Gupta brothers in 2010.
It was during this interaction that he was told that he would become minister of sports and recreation.