In what one MP fittingly described as "explosive testimony", former Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) CEO Lucky Montana on Tuesday implicated several senior government and ANC officials in alleged corruption.
Testifying before the parliamentary inquiry into state capture, he also revealed details of how Rajesh "Tony" Gupta and Duduzane Zuma had tried to secure a multibillion-rand railway rolling stock tender for their business interests.
Montana told the inquiry that what brought him to testify was a media briefing held by deputy public enterprises minister Ben Martins last year, following testimony delivered to the inquiry at that time by suspended Eskom company secretary Suzanne Daniels.
"What brings me here... is Ben Martins, responding about his relationship with the Guptas... In trying to distance himself, he indicated he met them with me. I got the distinct impression that Martins wanted to create the impression that I brought the Guptas to him."
The meeting referred to -- at Martins' ministerial home in Pretoria -- took place in September 2012. Martins was serving as transport minister at the time.
"I was extremely disappointed. I thought that the statement [to the media] made by deputy minister Martins was not entirely truthful, was not fair, and was not comradely."
#luckymontana effectively confirms Guptas #StateCapture & the Cabinet Ministers involvement in it. Provides substantial submissions and names of the role players. The #Hawks have been provided with evidence openly & publicly.— Tim Modise (@TimModise) January 30, 2018
Montana said he had a long relationship with Martins, and they had been "close friends" and comrades.
However, he "was trying to protect his name at my expense".
Montana said he had never met a Gupta before Martins invited him to his home and introduced him.
"He introduced me to Duduzane Zuma and Rajesh "Tony" Gupta. This happened in September 2012. What he said at the media briefing was totally not true. I felt it important that I set the record straight.
"The impression was created that I went to the house 'dragging the Guptas' along... I thought that was unfair and not comradely."
On what happened at the meeting, Montana said Martins had told him very explicitly "that the reason these people want to meet with you is because they are interested in the Prasa rolling stock programme".
Further, they were "interested in our bid for the supply of 600 new commuter trains to replace the entire Metrorail fleet".
Montana said he told them he would discuss the matter on his return from Germany, where he was to attend an international rail conference.
"I indicated that I was set to leave for Berlin. But when I got there, I got the shock of my life.
"Information came to me from different [rolling stock] manufacturers, who wanted to confirm... that they'd been interacting with people from the Gupta family, or people acting on their behalf. These people had told them that they were working for Lucky Montana, Ben Martins and President Jacob Zuma.
"These are people I've never met, and they're... extorting money from rolling stock manufacturers and saying they're working for us. I was so furious."
On his return, Montana contacted Martins and asked him to arrange a meeting with Rajesh Gupta and Duduzane Zuma.
"He didn't know why I was calling them to the meeting. I assume he thought it was to continue with the discussions. But I was angry.
"It was a long meeting. And I made it very clear to Duduzane Zuma, Rajesh Gupta, and a third gentleman, from India, I don't recall his name... that you are not working for government, you don't have the right to collect money in our name.
"We fought in that meeting. Tony Gupta and Duduzane were very shameless.
"One of the things they said to me -- and Tony Gupta said it at the meeting, in the presence of the minister -- was that 'you are not going to be at Prasa forever. We can arrange something for you that you get it in Dubai yourself'."
Later, they had told him: "Work with us, we'll then take care of you."
Montana said he had made it very clear he was not interested, and would not work with them.
"They were furious. Not with me; they were furious with Ben Martins.
"Because the Guptas, or rather a member of the Gupta family, was saying to the minister, 'we told you we don't want Lucky. He's not cooperative. You said he's your comrade'. That's what they were saying to the minister in this particular meeting."
Montana told the inquiry the Guptas were keen to "block the rolling stock programme" because they wanted it to go to the company China South Rail, which they were championing.
There was laughter from MPs at one point when Montana accidentally referred to the president's son as "Duduzane Gupta" before quickly correcting his mistake.
Montana said Martins had later given him an assurance that "what the Guptas wanted would not succeed".
Later, in his testimony, Montana warned that there was a big assumption that corruption in state-owned companies was confined to the Guptas and their associates.
And while he had managed to keep the Guptas out of Prasa, there had been another, bigger threat.
"We defeated the Guptas and their associates. But we also defeated our own ANC comrades, who are similar if not worse than the Guptas.
He said that that in 2014, Prasa had become "the battleground for big powerful political and economic interests".
Everyone wanted the rolling stock tender because, at the time, it was one of the biggest in the world.
Montana said Dipuo Peters, who succeeded Martins as transport minister, had succeeded in changing the Prasa board.
"Dipuo Peters, she met us... she wanted us to cancel or delay this rolling stock tender."
Both he and Prasa board chairperson Sifiso Buthelezi had refused, and told her that it would be unlawful.
"The minister then told us, 'I intend to change the board. I intend to bring in Mr Popo Molefe as chairman'. And the rest is history."
Montana said the minister "didn't work alone", but had consultations with then ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize.
"And Zweli Mkhize... started interacting with us in 2013.
At one of the meetings, which took place at the Sandton Sun Hotel, Mkhiza had noted that Prasa was due to pay R465-million to the company building the locomotoves.
"He [Mkhize] said 'we want 10 percent of that R465-million'."
Montana said he had told him this was unlawful, and Mkhiza had become angry.
"Both Dipuo Peters and Zweli Mkhize were angry with us. And they collaborated to appoint and change the board of Prasa. And the [new] board was appointed on August 1, 2014."
Montana suggested the newly appointed chair, Molefe, had smeared him before the new board.
"He specifically mentioned Lucky Montana works for the Guptas, and he [Montana] works for 'Butternut', [a derogatory nickname for President Jacob Zuma]."
Montana said that between leaving Prasa in 2015 and last year, he had been subjected "by people I call my own comrades" to a most vicious campaign.
"Yes, the Guptas are criminals, they wanted to steal from Prasa, but my own comrades, who wanted to steal themselves, did worse things."
Montana said he had been followed, had his home burgled three times, suspected he was under surveillance, and had been forced to obtain a firearm to defend his family.
"This task to transform our country is far bigger than just cleaning up the Guptas. We must clean up the Guptas, there's no doubt about it. But the problem that we must address is far deeper," he said.
Martins is set to testify before the inquiry on Wednesday.