- Vytjie Mentor has been praised as “unflinching in her fight against corruption” at a memorial service held for her by ActionSA on Tuesday.
- Mentor died last week after a protracted illness.
- She was one of the first whistleblowers to expose state capture.
One of the first state capture whistleblowers and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor has been described as “unflinching in her fight against corruption” at a memorial service held for her on Tuesday.
Mourners who included ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba, former transport minister Dipuo Peters and the ACDP’s deputy president Wayne Thring praised Mentor for upholding her principles – even when it alienated her from her comrades.
Peters said Mentor possessed “a selfless devotion to South Africans and her country”, an attribute she demonstrated through her “unflinching fight against corruption” and upholding an integrity “second to none”.
“Throughout her life, she was very consistent in speaking truth to power because to her principle and truth were more important than living a pretentious life,” Peters said.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Thring, who said: “There are leaders in life who, because of their integrity, moral uprightness and uncompromising stand against injustice and corruption, become labelled as radical or thorns on the side of contemporary establishments.
“Mentor was one such person who, because of her convictions and choice not to compromise herself, ended up being labelled all manner of things. She made herself vulnerable having being one of the first whistleblowers to speak out against state capture.”
Thring added that “because she knew and understood her purpose, she devoted her life to this end, this put her at odds with some who criticised and vilified her because they misunderstood her, but this did not deter her as she stuck to her guns and saw through her purpose.”
In 2016 Mentor made headlines when she made the claims that the Gupta brothers had offered to have her appointed as public enterprises minister, replacing Barbara Hogan. In return for the Cabinet position she would have to make decisions as a minister that would further the Guptas’ business interests.
Vytjie Mentor at ActionSA’s manifesto launch of ActionSA in September 2021.
Gallo Images Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi
She later testified about the alleged offer before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, detailing how she and former president Jacob Zuma had undertaken a trip to China in October 2010.
According to Mentor, Zuma was in the next room when Ajay Gupta made her the offer. However, the commission’s evidence leaders could not corroborate this, and Chief Justice Raymond Zondo found in his report that “the incident did not happen”.
Mentor served as an ANC Member of Parliament from 2002 to 2014 and was the party’s caucus chairperson between 2004 and 2008. From 2009 she served as chairperson of the public enterprises portfolio committee.
Mentor resigned from Parliament in 2014, ahead of the elections, but only left the ANC in 2019, when she joined the ACDP.
In 2020, she joined ActionSA, becoming its Western Cape chairperson, a position she held until June 2022, when she resigned from the post because of ill health.
Vytjie Mentor at the Zondo Commission in 2019.
Gallo Images Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla
Mashaba described Mentor as an impeccable leader whose fight against corruption dated before her tenure in Parliament.
“Vytjie worked in the Department of Education and then later as a councillor in Kimberley, where she became an MMC for social development. She used to recount this job as one of her favourite experiences because of the work she did in providing clean water to communities.
“It was in this role she had her first of many run-ins with the ANC. A Swedish donation of paving stones meant for the municipality was allegedly taken and used to pave the driveways of the homes of ANC councillors.
Vytjie reported this to the then Public Protector, who declined to investigate. As was her nature, Mentor was not settling for that, reporting it to the media. When it became a story, she was charged with bringing the ANC into disrepute. The disciplinary committee found her not guilty.
Mentor, 58, died after a protracted illness last week. She is survived by her three children and her siblings.
Born in Kimberley in 1963, Mentor attended Hebron College and later Wits University.