Mbalula says he ‘froze’ when Ajay Gupta told him about his ministerial appointment

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JOHANNESBURG, March 22 – African National Congress (ANC) head of elections Fikile Mbalula said he was shocked when he received a call from one of the Gupta brothers back in 2010 congratulating him on his appointment as sports minister.

Mbalula spoke about the 2010 phone call from Ajay Gupta for the first time on Friday as he testified before state capture commission of inquiry. The former cabinet minister said he was visiting a friend when he received the phone call in the evening.

”I froze…I was taken aback that here is a man who is not an ANC member telling me this. I didn’t thank him…I just went ‘huh? huh?’ and I immediately told my friend. That was big but for it to come from him [Ajay] was a different story,” he told the inquiry.

The following year, Mbalula said he took the matter to ruling party NEC meeting to share his experiences about the Gupta family interfering in the governing party and government. He said he decided not to talk about it publicly and only tell the ANC top brass ”as he was taught” in the party.

”I didn’t raise it in public but in the ANC NEC.  Media had its own speculations about cabinet reshuffles and so on. What [former finance minister Trevor] Manuel said is incorrect…it was not Atul who called me, it was Ajay…I was emotional of course, I exploded.”

Commission chairman Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo told Mbalula that according to Ajay Gupta’s affidavit, which forms part of his application to cross-examine Mbalula, Ajay denies informing Mbalula about the appointment.

”He put a different version…that what he said was already in the public domain. What do you say about that?,” Zondo asked.

Mbalula replied: ”I stand by my version. He called me…and I informed my friend. You can check cellphone records, I cannot remember the exact date, but the record of Ajay’s phone call is there.” (ANA)