Mosebenzi Zwane insists he held no brief for the Guptas in Tegeta-Optimum deal
Former mineral resources minister says he hitched a flight with controversial brothers from Switzerland to India ‘because he was sick’
Former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane has again denied he put pressure on global mining company Glencore to sell its Optimum mine to the Gupta-owned Tegeta.
Zwane was on Tuesday answering questions at the state capture inquiry regarding his relationship with the Gupta family, including the controversial deal.
The former minister said he flew to Switzerland to meet Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg in 2015 in a bid to save jobs at stake when the mine was facing liquidation, but insisted he held no brief for the Guptas.
Zwane denied that he introduced Salim Essa as his adviser when he met for a second time with Glasenberg in Switzerland, saying he introduced him as an adviser to Tegeta.
Zwane was being questioned about an affidavit filed by Glasenberg regarding the meeting that eventually led to Glencore selling to Tegeta.
He was further quizzed about his relationship with the Gupta brothers, how he had hitched a flight on the Gupta jet following the meeting and several trips he took to India and Dubai.
Zwane is seen as one of the ministers who were doing the bidding of the Guptas during his time under former president Jacob Zuma.
However, Zwane, from the onset, said he never had a personal relationship with the Guptas but only met them at the behest of either the ANC or government.
“I went to Switzerland to try to save jobs and the bloodbath that had become imminent in the department of mineral resources when I joined.
“I went there to try to rescue the 3,000 jobs at stake in any manner possible, including but not limited to a possible buyer of the mine. I was not married to any particular buyer as long as correct processes were followed,” said Zwane.
He said following the meeting, he hitched a flight with the Gupta brothers to India because he was sick, struggling with a condition in his throat which was worsened by the cold weather in Switzerland.
Zwane said he received treatment at a public hospital in India and later again hitched a flight with the Guptas to Dubai where he then took a commercial flight back to SA.
Zwane told the inquiry he was supposed to meet potential investors in India but he struggled to explain to the commission's chair Raymond Zondo why he could not just fly back home given his condition, which he said sometimes caused him to completely lose his voice.
“How was it going to help you travelling with Tony Gupta in terms of your voice, instead of taking the flight that had been booked for you and paid for by government?” asked Zondo.
He did not buy Zwane's explanation about the difficulties he would face in transit because of his condition.
“Because you were so sick, why didn’t you just go home?” asked Zondo.
“How were you going to communicate with them [investors] if you couldn't talk? What was the point of proceeding with the trip which required you to talk with investors when your voice was giving you such a big problem that you thought you wouldn’t be able to talk to people at different airports if you used the commercial flights?”
“For me, if the purpose of your trip to India involved speaking to investors but you were so sick you couldn’t even talk to someone who is close to you, you would struggle, I don’t see why you would still proceed because you would not be able to do what you were supposed to do. That’s why you should go back home. Why insist on going there?” asked Zondo.
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